Girls experience college life, gain confidence at GAMES Camp
By Jennifer Berghom, Public Affairs Representative
Posted: 06/28/2013
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Ashley Solis doesn't consider herself the strongest student in science, but she's hoping the training she is receiving at The University of Texas-Pan American will help her master subjects in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

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Daniela Haro, a rising eighth-grade student at Valley View Junior High School in Pharr (pictured left), looks on as Ashley Solis, who just completed Ann Richards Middle School in La Joya, pours a melted wax mixture into a bottle to make lip balm during the GAMES Camp, held at UTPA from June 23-28, 2013.

Solis was one of more than 30 teenage girls who participated in the Girls Adventuring in Math, Engineering and Science (GAMES) Camp on UTPA's campus the week of June 23-28. Throughout the week the girls, who attend or just completed middle school, attended classes, conducted experiments and visited the Coastal Studies Lab at South Padre Island.

On Tuesday of that week, Solis, who just completed Ann Richards Middle School in La Joya, and her friends learned how to make lip balm from scratch while learning basic chemistry. The day before, the girls created cases that held an egg and dropped them from atop a stairwell to better understand principles of physics.

Many of the girls said their eggs broke, but they had fun learning and were never intimidated by the lessons.

"It's interesting, I actually can handle it," Solis said.

In addition to honing their STEM skills, the girls said they've also enjoyed experiencing college life.

"It makes me feel mature," said Daniela Haro, a rising eighth-grade student at Valley View Junior High School in Pharr.

UT Pan American's Mother Daughter Program (MDP) started the GAMES Camp a few years ago to introduce girls to college life and careers in the STEM fields, in which women are underrepresented.

Barbara Jean Garza, associate director of the College Access and Support Programs' Community Outreach Office — which houses the MDP — said the camp also exposes the girls to female leaders, including professors and university students who are engaged in the institution, and emphasizes the importance of pursuing higher education.

"I know that by just from them having the opportunity to see our staff, who are strong female leaders, they are inspired by just working with them and being able to see these other leaders on our university campus," Garza said. "It's just giving them this opportunity to have this college experience and know that it's the next step for them."

This year, the Boone Family Foundation sponsored the camp and the college campus tour the program will host in July. The foundation supports many programs that promote success for women and girls.

Cynthia Yung, the Boone Family Foundation's executive director, said the foundation was impressed with the Mother Daughter Program and its activities that promote higher education and goal setting.

"It engages parents in a meaningful way that teaches them to be powerful supporters of education and career choices that otherwise may not be considered by the girls," Yung said. "We love the emphasis on STEM and nontraditional careers."

For the college tour, which will be conducted July 30-Aug. 1, the MDP will invite about 35 rising high school freshmen and sophomores, who were part of the program in middle school, to tour UTPA's campus, and go on a statewide trip to visit other universities campuses. The other campuses are: The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University- Kingsville and Texas State University at San Marcos.