MESA - Some students in the East Valley are getting a chance to jumpstart their college careers.
It’s all thanks to the East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The four-week summer STEM program takes place at Wilkes University in Mesa.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math studies.
Students say it's been a life-changing experience. Julia Alvarez is one of 17 high schools students chosen for the program.
"I heard it was a great opportunity to know what career you wanted," Alvarez says.
The EVHCC sponsors students who've excelled in school but for financial or other reasons wouldn't be able to participate.
David Jeffers is the science instructor and he says, “An opportunity like this for kids is just phenomenal."
He's in the middle of teaching the kids how to build simple structures and program them to move with a computer--and it's opening the students' eyes.
"I never thought I’d be able to build something or even run it," Alvarez admits with a smile.
Women have historically been underrepresented in the sciences, but if you look at the young group, you'll notice that may be slated to change.
Jeffers says, "It's really good to see the opportunities being extended to them."
Once they graduate, the students can apply for scholarships which will give them a head start for college. Going to college is something they’d be the first to do in their families.
And the lessons the students walk away with go beyond the classroom.
"I thought I would fail at everything. I thought I wouldn't go to college. But now that STEM has come into my life, I know I can do it," beams Alvarez.
The EVHCC needs sponsors in order to continue providing the program. For more information visit facebook.com/EastValleyHispanicChamberofCommerce.