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University of the Pacific’s summer academies drive student success | Schools

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University of the Pacific’s summer academies drive student success
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University of the Pacific’s summer academies drive student success

Students from Pacific’s first Reach for the Stars Academy return as incoming freshman

Two incoming University of the Pacific freshman students have already been reaching for the stars as they prepare to join the Class of 2021 this fall.

Claryse Adams and Mark Jimenez were part of the first class of the PREP USA/Reach for the Stars Academy at Pacific seven years ago. Now Adams will be studying electrical engineering and applied mathematics at Pacific and will be a Pacific Legal Scholar, while Jimenez hopes to enter the Health, Exercise and Sports Science program on the university’s Stockton Campus.

“Seven years ago, I was excited to attend Reach for the Stars, yet also terrified because I didn’t know anything on the pre-test given the first day,” said Adams, a graduate of Edison High School in Stockton. “Looking back, I now realize that was a good thing, because it meant that I would have a lot to learn from the program. … After spending six summers on this campus, I grew to see Pacific as my home and knew that I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Reach for the Stars, part of Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates’ Tomorrow Project and just one of several academic, music and athletic summer programs hosted on Pacific’s Stockton Campus, was inspired by Pacific alumnus and former NASA astronaut José Hernández. It prepares promising students, especially girls and underrepresented minorities, for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Partners in the academy include the José Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, this year celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the Stockton Unified School District, and Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education and School of Engineering and Computer Science. About 1,300 students have entered the program since it began.

“I’m so happy and very proud that Claryse and Mark have decided to come to Pacific in the fall,” said Nancy Shaw, the Tomorrow Project’s administrator. “It’s proof that the supplementary academic disciplines covered in our academy provides students additional foundational support to develop the skills to succeed not only in middle and high school, but it also builds the foundation for continuing on to college and succeeding in life.” 


Corporate sponsors also play a big part of funding the academy and providing unique learning experiences. This summer Oracle partnered with Pacific MESA program to provide a 16-hour computer coding class for 30 ninth- and 10th-graders in the academy. And a $25,000 donation from the AT&T Foundation means students such as Adams and Jimenez will be eligible for scholarships to attend Pacific.

“The thing I most remember about my first time (at the academy) was building the bridges,” said Jimenez, a Franklin High School graduate. “I was so nervous, because I had never done any project like that. We learned about logic, engineering basics, and a lot of information about the school.”

Adams and Jimenez each said that the camp’s rigorous instruction made them eager to come each summer.

“I looked forward to returning each year because I knew that there would always be something new to learn, and most of the topics, including physics, I would not see again until well into high school,” said Adams. “From being in RFTS, I learned that engineering is a math-heavy profession with room for creativity, which is why I chose it as my major.”

 Hernández speaks to the Reach for the Stars attendees each year and has influenced students along the way.

“I got to informally meet Jose Hernández every year,” said Jimenez. “He inspired me because he attended and graduated from Franklin High School, like me, and if he can go through Pacific and become what he wanted to be, then that means that I can as well.”

The experience gave the two students more than just STEM training.

“Right off the bat I noticed social changes in her,” said Adams’ mother Jennifer Vizcarra. “She was excited about learning again. It had been a long time since she actually looked forward to waking up early and going to school. She was also working well in a group.”

Laura Garcia, Jimenez’s mother, said her son worried about staying in the program because some of his friends were working at summer jobs, but he was instead expected to go to the academy. She said some of those worries subsided when he was offered a STEM JEMS (Jobs, Employment and Mentoring Skills) position, a paid teacher assistant job for students who returned to the academy for five-straight summers.

“Now that Mark is going to Pacific, I am even more excited for what the next four years might bring to his future,” Garcia said. “Little by little, my dream and wish for him is becoming a reality.”

About University of the Pacific

Founded in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher education in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton Campus offers more than 80 areas of study in nine schools and colleges, including 25 graduate programs and 10 accelerated programs. The university’s distinctive Northern California footprint also includes its San Francisco Campus, home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and graduate programs in health, food and technology fields, and Sacramento Campus, home to the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and graduate programs in health, education, business, public policy and data science. For more information, visit www.pacific.edu.

Media contact:

Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) | 209.470.3206 (cell) | kmichaud@pacific.edu

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