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STC Provides Science Exploration Through Unique Camps

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The Biology Department at South Texas College used the summer to pique the interest of young minds with Biotechnology and Biology Explorers camps at each of the college’s legacy campuses. STC Image
The Biology Department at South Texas College used the summer to pique the interest of young minds with Biotechnology and Biology Explorers camps at each of the college’s legacy campuses. STC Image

Texas Border Business

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By Amanda Sotelo

From using DNA to repair cells to growing new bacteria, the Biology Department at South Texas College used the summer to pique the interest of young minds with Biotechnology and Biology Explorers camps at each of the college’s legacy campuses.

All camps were four days to a weeklong, welcoming students from local Starr and Hidalgo County school districts. Children aged 9-13 were invited to complete the Biology Explorers camp, while teens and adults from 16 to 21 were encouraged to attend Biotechnology camp.

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Incoming sophomore at Vanguard Academy Rembrandt Secondary Gavin Espericueta is a self-proclaimed nerd and said he does anything he can to learn, even if it’s in the summer.

“I love to learn. I always call myself a nerd; it’s not a bad thing,” said the Mission native. “I love biology and everything about it and this camp has given me an in-depth look into biology, its effects and environment. It’s been a new experience.”

The goal of both camps is to spark a love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) early on by exposing students to lessons and experiments they don’t see in a traditional high school classroom.

STC’s Biology Explorers dove into hands-on activities such as mastering the microscope, identifying organs through dissection, growing bacteria and studying plants, while Biotechnology camp goers learned about gene technology, forensic techniques and bacteria staining and identification methods.

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And for Espericueta, who is an aspiring pulmonologist or surgeon, he said his experience has fostered his dream and he’s thankful that STC has given him a new perspective.

Other campers, like Violet Rocha, 15, an incoming sophomore at Mission Collegiate High School, said this camp is not only a great opportunity, but a head start for many like her.

“When I get older, I know I’ll put everything I’m learning into use,” said the aspiring medical doctor. “This camp really pushes me to see the different sides of science and opens my eyes to the various pathways I can follow. You can’t find this anywhere else. I love that STC offers this.”

All camps are taught by STC faculty, who have volunteered their time to ensure they continue promoting and encouraging STEM careers.

STC Associate Professor of Biology Thomas Ndolo, Ph.D., said it is vital for STC, as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a two-year college, to provide these types of experiences to students who are underrepresented in STEM fields.

“The demand for a highly skilled workforce in the STEM field is high…there are opportunities for all our students, but they need to be introduced. That’s our job. That’s why I do this,” said Ndolo. “They don’t get this type of training in school…most of it (science experiments) they don’t see until they are undergraduate or even graduate students. This is giving them a foundation, a base while building confidence.”

Maria Cervantes, STC Biology department chair, acknowledged that providing high-quality camps with high-quality instruction, is a department goal and effort.

“We want to provide a service to our community that is multifaceted and will expose students to the likes of STEM and how fun it can be,” said Cervantes. “We want our community to see STC as a resource that will help them reach their STEM goals. Parents have expressed gratitude for providing their children with a fun and safe outlet for science exploration…that is our definition of success.”

For more information on STC’s Biology Department, visit southtexascollege.edu/academics/biology.

Registration for fall 2023 is underway; classes begin August 28.

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