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STEM Summer Academy Closes One Door and Opens Another

Posted September 4, 2018

STEM Summer Scholars Academy 2018 gathers for the closing program.
Click here for more images of the event.

High spirits, cheers, and plenty of camaraderie filled the PCCC Theater at the Main Campus for the August 9 closing ceremony of the STEM Summer Scholars Academy 2018.

“This is not an end,” said Professor Dennis Reer, director of the STEM program, to the young scholars and their families in the audience. “You’re just getting started.” 

The annual Summer Scholars Academy is for high school students who plan to enroll at PCCC. This year’s Academy numbers nearly 90 students, all of whom are registered at PCCC for Fall. “Now you have a head start,” Professor Reer told them.

Students cheered the faculty members and support team, one-by-one, who worked with them over the summer on their math skills, research technique, and even communication skills.

“Stay engaged. Stay focused,” Professor Donna Stankiewicz, dean of sciences, told the students.
“You made the choice to start at PCCC and are one step closer to getting that job in engineering, or technology, or whatever you want.”

A lively video depicted the electrical engineering workshop, Sandy Hook environmental research trip, fish dissection labs, and other activities the summer scholars experienced, provoking laughter and applause as students re-lived the fun of hands-on learning.

Current PCCC students Dalvin Ortega and George Baladi commanded attention when describing their workshop experience at a NASA location as part of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program (NCAS) at PCCC. 

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” said George who told the group that when he was a new PCCC student, he lacked motivation, but the STEM program changed that.

George and Dalvin attended the four-day technical workshop at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia where they had opportunities to learn directly from NASA experts and collaborate on projects with other NCAS scholars from around the country.

 “We worked on a team to build a Mars rover,” said Dalvin, describing the main project at the workshop.  “Everyone had a specific role to play and being a team player was very important.”

Keynote speaker Cesar Argueta, Jr., delivered a motivational speech that resonated with the audience.
“I grew up with a challenged background in Chicago,” he said. “I started at a community college, too.”

He is now the director of client services at Wylei, a tech start-up that innovates sophisticated digital marketing tools. “I spend my day talking to Fortune 100 executives about AI (artificial intelligence) and its business applications,” explained Argueta who works with companies around the world.

Dynamic and enthusiastic, he urged students to acquire a strong foundation of knowledge and be willing to start from the bottom in order to learn. “Apple, Google, and Amazon all started in a garage with an idea,” said Argueta.

He advised students to persevere in their pursuit of success, to recognize failures as avenues to innovation, and to seek out mentors throughout their careers.

“Ask questions and try to learn as much as you can,” said Argueta.  “Commit to your education and don’t be discouraged by frustrations. Perseverance is the key to becoming who you want to become and doing what you want to do.”