This summer, more than 100 students from the Washoe County School District have been studying in the College of Education at UNR through the Dean’s Future Scholars program. Many of them are current high school students, working toward their diploma. Through the academic portion of the program, students can earn credits in Algebra 1, Geometry 1-2, Algebra 2 or American Government courses.
“We are pretty lucky that we get to have a class and we don’t have to pay for it,” Reed High School student Aracely Aguirre said. “We get the credit and it is free. So I think we are pretty lucky there. I think we should all be grateful for that, but we also get to see our friends that we might not go to school with. We look forward to seeing everybody and our mentors every summer.”
Reed High student Pablo Izquierdo entered the program during seventh grade after a teacher referred him and told him it would be beneficial. He said the first couple years in the program were spent getting to know everyone and understanding what academic endeavors lied ahead, all of which have helped him when returning to Reed after summer.
“It has been helping to get things in order and it helps with time management,” Izquierdo said, adding that getting a jump on his high school studies will benefit his future plans of practicing sports medicine.
The program’s goal of enhancing students’ interest in education and its tangible benefits largely rests on the ability of Program Director Mariluz Garcia to harness students’ attention early. By approaching them in sixth grade, Garcia ensures their interest will hold throughout their tenure in high school and continue until they enter college.
“The early intervention is what makes Dean’s Future Scholars so special,” Garcia said. “Starting in the sixth grade, students become comfortable navigating the college campus and, most importantly, they build strong relationships with other program participants and staff who come from similar backgrounds. Ultimately, students realize they can be the first generation in their family to graduate from high school and receive a college degree.”
Upon graduation from high school, Dean’s Future Scholars students enter the internship element of the program, which places them in various departments throughout campus for more experience in the college environment. Recent Reed High graduate Andrew Garcia said making it to the internship portion of the program has proved the progression he has experienced.
“It has definitely progressed,” Garcia said of his time spent in the program. “It is a little bit harder and a little more time management needs to be applied. If you do the work and put more time and effort into it, it is a piece of cake.”
When asked what he found most enjoyable about the program, having participated since the seventh grade, Garcia said the friendships made along the way stand out.
“The people, definitely,” he said. “I have met so many people and you grow up with them. When you get to my age, you know them so well you talk to them as though you have known them all your life.
“Also the mentors are your best friends. They have brought leadership and they have always been or tried to be really responsible, to be an example to us and to show us what we need to do and how we need to do it. They are always friendly, and in the very end, when you see them graduate, you kind of lose a piece of yourself because they are not there anymore.”
Dean’s Future Scholar students also give back to the community through various service projects during the summer at local spots such as Rancho San Rafael Park, Swan Lake Nature Study and Martin Luther King Park. Aguirre said boxing food at the local Food Bank was her favorite project because it showed the power of teamwork and she said it provided a more clear picture of her own life.
“I think the Food Bank was most memorable because we really worked as a team,” she said. “The mentors helped out and it wasn’t just us. I think we got to know each other more. The Food Bank told us about how people are appreciative of what they get. We just saw how much it meant to those people and how thankful they are for what they get. It made us appreciate our own lives a little more for the opportunities that we are getting.”
Students preparing to enter college will receive recognition for their efforts at a ceremony funded by Nevadaworks in August. Students who continue to come back to the Dean’s Future Scholars program each summer still have plenty to look forward to, according to Izquierdo.
“I think being with your friends, having fun, all while getting the school credit, is definitely the best part,” he said.