Summer Program Led by Dr. Lina Kim `09 Pairs
High School Students with UCSB Researchers
By Marge Perko
Los Altos High School senior Katarina Gibson always wanted to come to UC Santa Barbara. “When I was four, I remember getting an informational packet from UCSB and -- not even knowing what college was -- I wanted to come here,” she said.
But after the 2008 recession, her parents went through severe financial struggles. Gibson wondered if there was enough money for her family to survive. “Our economic situation got worse and worse,” she said. “When I was in junior high, I was at the forefront of my student council, raising money for the Food Bank – and that Thanksgiving, we ate our meal courtesy of the food donations.”
Two years ago, she learned about the Research Mentorship Program – a six-week program offered through the Office of Summer Sessions that pairs talented high school students with UCSB researchers on a chosen project in the sciences, engineering, social sciences or humanities.
“I wanted to attend RMP but when I saw the cost, I couldn’t even think to apply,” she said. Her mother – a UCSB graduate -- encouraged her to apply this past February. After discovering and qualifying for the RMP Scholarship, Gibson was able to live her dream this summer – she worked with RMP mentor Kelly Thomasson at the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology on a project involving fruit fly procreation and yeast.
“I thought this program wasn’t meant for kids like me,” she told a packed audience at the 2016 RMP Scholarship Luncheon held at Mosher Alumni House on July 28. “But I learned that it was designed for kids like me. The students here today are intelligent to start – but above that, they are kind and compassionate and have an intrinsic motivation for education and changing the world. Thank you all for showing us that we’re no lesser deserving of these opportunities just because of our economic status.”
Nineteen out of the total 75 high school students accepted into the program received full or partial scholarships to attend RMP this summer. This year, the RMP scholarship fund more than $154,000 in donations from campus supporters, individuals and organizations like the Wells Fargo Foundation, Towbes Foundation, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara and Bank of America Charitable Foundation.
“It’s amazing what an impact donor support and mentorship at UCSB can make on these students,” said RMP Director Dr. Lina Kim `09.
The young people receiving the scholarships are part of a high-achieving group of high school students chosen for their academic achievement and communication skills. This year, the program received a record-breaking number of applications from local, out-of-state and international students, with an average GPA of 4.42. Many participants like Gibson look forward to applying to UCSB when they graduate from high school. “I’m going to be a pioneer,” said Cindy Diaz, another RMP Scholarship recipient. “I’m going to be a first generation college student and the first to spark an interest in STEM.”
Beyond immersing themselves in high-level research and experiencing college life, RMP participants also discovered a sense of belonging.
“I was bullied every day at school because I wanted to get an education to get out of the cycle of poverty,” said Gabriela Silva Hernandez, the last RMP Scholarship recipient to speak at the luncheon. “I can’t express how grateful I am for being in this program. Now I feel like a person -- a teenager able to be in a group of friends. My definition of a dream has changed because of this program. A dream is something that’s attainable if you work hard for it.”
Read more about the programIn this eCoastlines extended feature on the Research Mentorship Program, we met with the mentors, students and supporters of this special UCSB summer program.
Find out what inspires both mentors, students and donors like Patty Sheldon Smale '70 to participate in RMP, the opportunities available for scholars of all backgrounds and why this program continues to be one of the most inspiring summer experiences at UC Santa Barbara.
As the nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the University’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) launched a special online feature series on the UCSB Natural Reserve System on August 25.
Kicking off the “Stewards of Nature” serives is “All This Rugged Beauty,” an immersive multimedia story on the Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserve (VESR) in Mammoth Lakes.
VESR is one of the 39 sites stewarded by the University of California. The UC Natural Reserve System (NRS) -- the largest of its kind in the world -- administers over 750,000 acres of protected natural land.
UCSB stewards seven sites—the most reserves of any UC campus -- including Coal Oil Point on the coast just off campus and Sedgwick Reserve in Santa Barbara County’s wine country. Valentine Camp and Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL) are the most remote sites.