Rio Grande Valley students get a head start with Prefreshman Engineering Program at UTPA
By Brig Lopez III, Informational Writer II
Posted: 06/16/1999
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EDINBURG — While some students might be spending their summer days building sand castles on the beach, sleeping in late or maybe just playing a game or two of baseball, 15-year-old Viviana Cortez of PSJA Memorial High School, chose to spend her summer submerged in science at The University of Texas-Pan American.

More than 200 high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley are participating in the Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program (Tex-PREP) held at The University of Texas-Pan American.

More than 200 high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley are participating in the Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program (Tex-PREP) held on campus.

“I have always had an interest in engineering,” Cortez said. “This program has a little bit of everything from science to mathematics. The program really gives us a good understanding of physics.”

The Tex-PREP program that began May 31 is an eight-week program designed to improve access to careers in science, mathematics and engineering for traditionally underrepresented high school students from the 8th through 11th grades, said Dr. Miguel Paredes, director of the Tex-PREP program at UTPA.

To achieve these goals, the program has included academics, role modeling, mentoring, hands on experience and career awareness, Paredes said.

“Because there is such a high demand for people in the science areas, it’s a great opportunity for students interested in this field to get an early start,” he noted.

Paredes said the program also offers students a preview of college life and gives them an opportunity to develop time management and study skills and improve their self-confidence.

According to Paredes, the program has been such a success that many of the university students serving as tutors and role models in this year’s program are products of earlier Tex-PREP sessions.

“They have learned a great deal from the program and in return they want to give something back to the program,” Paredes said.

Tex-PREP, which originated at The University of Texas at San Antonio in 1979, began a satellite program at UTPA in 1986.

After spending a week designing, modeling and constructing paper gliders with their newly learned engineering skills, the more than 200 Text-PREP students gave their gliders a test run at the UTPA Track and Field.

Since then more than 1,600 Rio Grande Valley students have been served.

Juan Colmenero Jr., 14, from Nellie Schunior Middle School in La Joya, said he as already learned a great deal during the first two weeks of the program.

“I’ve already learned so much in such a short time,” Colmenero said. “At first I felt a little confused with all these new kinds of problems, but after a while the programs started to become clear to me.”

Colmenero said Text-PREP has offered him a challenge.

“I’m seeing mathematical problems I have never seen before, but I see it as a challenge and it makes me feel good,” Colmenero said. “When I understand these kind of problems that look so hard, it makes me feel above average.”

Classes meet Monday through Friday from 12:45 to 5:35 p.m. and include academic components of logic and its applications to mathematics, algebraic structures, probability and statistics, introduction to engineering, introduction to computer science, introduction to physics, introduction to technical writing, problem-solving seminars, and career awareness seminars.

The progam is sponsored this year by The County of Hidalgo Office of Employment and Training, NASA, Texas Legislature, and the Independent School Districts of: Mission, Donna, McAllen, Hidalgo, Edcouch-Elsa and South Texas.

For more information about the Tex-PREP program, contact Paredes at 956/381-3459.