By Kathryn Bender
Reni Soon, a UH medical student, talks to high school students.
Prep students praise
UH summer program
It helps to keep the bestBy Helen Altonn
students in the state, but
it's 'getting the budget ax'
It was the first time he'd been away so long from his Maui home, but it was "a great college experience," said Brandon Viloria.
A Maui High senior in the fall interested in engineering, he said he gained a new interest in astronomy during five weeks at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
Kimi Artita, Mililani High senior next year, said: "The professors not only were trying to teach us material, but the rigors of college. I'm just disappointed the end came so quickly."
Viloria and Artita were among more than 100 high school students studying and having fun in the Summer Program for the Enhancement of Basic Education, conducted by UH and the Department of Education.
"It's one of the best deals for keeping our best kids in the state," said James Heasley, astronomy professor, who headed one of five centers in the program an earth and space exploration.
"We're really cutting-edge," he said. "Some of the things I've tried out with these kids I want to use in my undergraduate classes. Next spring I'm doing an honors class. It should be the same kind of group -- real go-getters."
Many of the summer students wind up UH Regents' and Presidential Scholars, Heasley said.
"It's neat cooperation between the UH and DOE -- the kind of thing we should do more of." Yet UH has been told the program is "getting the budget ax," he said.
"I'm sure everyone wants the program to continue," said Lana Mito, in the Department of Education's student activities program.
She said the program was initiated in 1985 when SAT scores were dropping "to prepare students for the 21st century." It started with six centers and expanded to eight with some studies abroad, she said.
Declining funding stripped the program to four centers last year. This year, with $200,000, students were limited to increase the number of centers, Mito said.
Earth and space exploration was added. Marine sciences also was new, conducted with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, she said. Others were medical sciences, modern media and drama and theater. Students pay $250 for part of dorm and food expenses.
Iwalani Else, leading the medical sciences program, said some students thinking of going to mainland colleges become more interested in the UH after the summer program. "They're finding they can get just as good an education if they stay here."
Viloria rejected a scholarship for the Presidential Classroom in Washington, D.C., to attend the program.
"I was thrilled when I heard he was coming here," Heasley said. "These students are at the top of the curve. This will help keep them in Hawaii -- something we always say we want to do."
Giving his students certificates, Heasley told them, "One thing that impressed me is that you probably learned more about yourselves than about astronomy."
Big Island seniors Anika Renaud-Kim of Waiakea High and Emma Perry of Hilo High said they loved Heasley's program. "I learned more than I expected to -- astronomy and computers and stuff," Perry said.
Renaud-Kim said UH now is "definitely a possibility" for her college future.
Melissa Tamashiro of Kapaa, Kauai, in the medical sciences program, said: "It was challenging, but it was challenging in a good way. It made me think."
She hadn't intended to go to UH because her sister will be a sophomore there in the fall, she said. "I wanted to break the family pattern, but I'm considering it more now. I really like this campus."
Else said the medical sciences program simulates the first year of medical school with work geared to the high school senior level.
Second-year medical students hired as tutors say every year the material seems very complex, Else said. "But these kids are incredibly smart, intelligent and motivated. They rise to any challenge put in front of them."
A field trip to Molokai General Hospital rounded out discussions on fictitious cases involving injuries and issues involved.
Kris Shinyama, Baldwin High student on Maui, said she learned a lot and formed close friendships during the program. At first, "it seemed like such a long time. But now it seems really short."