Instead of enjoying the beach on spring break, five Edinburg North High School students spent their time preparing to represent South Texas at the National Science Bowl competition April 26-30 in Washington, D.C.
The South Texas Regional Science Bowl championship team was honored at a luncheon recently by The University of Texas-Pan American, which coordinates the regional competition.
"It is extraordinary competing against the best of the best. It's a humbling experience and a great accomplishment especially being a Latina and the only one representing my school and South Texas," said team member Heidy Salinas, a junior who aspires to be a pharmacist and was the first female on a winning South Texas team.
Other members of the team included senior Matthew Hernandez and juniors Stephen Garza, Gilbert Lopez, and Samuel Hernandez. Accompanying them at the luncheon was Marc Braden, Edinburg North physics teacher and the team's coach. As first-place winners in the regional competition, each student and the coach was awarded a Dell Inspirion laptop computer. The competition and laptops were provided by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Minority Economic Impact and the Ford Motor Company Fund.
Following last year's winning team from South Texas, San Benito High School, this year's team is ready to compete against the 66 other winning regional teams from across the nation.
"Just being there will be an honor...knowing we will be the group of Hispanics representing our region is a huge honor," team member Lopez said.
Edinburg's path to the regional championship was not easy. They competed at the UTPA Annex Feb 17 against seven other South Texas high schools - Edcouch-Elsa, South Texas Science Academy, Homer Hanna, San Benito, Hidalgo, Mission and La Feria.
"We studied almost every day, and even on weekends...receiving those laptops, getting a trip to D.C. to compete in the nationals is the ultimate package...these kids are striving for excellence and I am definitely proud of them," said Braden, acknowledging the hard work and dedication of his team and Edinburg North's educators.
After awarding the laptops, Dr. Edwin LeMaster, dean of the UTPA College of Science Engineering, encouraged the students' interest in science and engineering careers, and attending UTPA, which, he said, had the second largest Hispanic enrollment in the nation (Hispanic Outlook, May 2006), with 20 percent of that enrollment in its College of Science and Engineering programs.
LeMaster said competitions such as the science bowl open doors to new opportunities for students.
"It is important to go to nationals; it builds confidence, it shows them that their skills are as good as those in big cities...our students gain the realization that they can succeed," LeMaster said.
For more information, contact Erica Reyes, UTPA development office and Science Bowl regional coordinator, at 956/316-7994. For more information on UTPA's annual Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week, visit the Web site at www.hestec.org.