Summer Experience at West group photo

High school students make summer count at ASU West program

By

Joan M. Sherwood

For the 10th consecutive year, Arizona State University’s Summer Experience at West provided Phoenix-area high school students the opportunity to experience life on a college campus, explore exciting academic majors that they may want to pursue in college, all while connecting with other students who share their interests.

ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences partnered with Educational Outreach and Student Services to present the 2017 program that included two sessions that served more than 300 high school students during the month of June.

“Summer Experience at West is valuable because many of the students who participate are first generation students,” said Lorenzo Chavez, director of Family and Student Initiatives for Access ASU. “It provides many of them with their first opportunity to be on a college campus and experience the academic rigor of a university research project.” Chavez said.

Both sessions offered four different learning communities students could participate in, covering topics ranging from psychology and social justice to political philosophy and sustainability.

“We want to offer topics that students find most interesting,” Chavez said. “The course selection is based on an evaluation process that helps us determine the most popular ones.”

The learning communities offered students interactive activities that included research, laboratory visits, presentations, seminars, college-major explorations and panel discussions led by current ASU students and faculty.

“It’s an incredible experience. I hear the word ‘college’ and it seems scary. Then I come here and I realize I’ll do great with this community around me and the people supporting me,” said Josue Castillo, one of the seniors in the program.

The first session, an overnight experience, took place from June 6-8 and was exclusive to rising juniors and seniors.

large group of students posing for a photo at ASU West campus
Juniors and seniors from Valley high schools stopped and posed for a photo during the first session of Summer Experience at West June 6–8.

“Having a roommate has been great because we’ve both been able to help each other out,” Castillo said. “We’re able to support each other and it’s awesome to see what that will be like when I’m in college.”

Castillo participated in the Exercise and Wellness learning community. He said he was motivated to sign up for the community by his own physical fitness.

“I’ve learned that exercise is good for everything: it helps in preventing disease; it helps control disorders; it helps in gaining your life back.”

The second session, a non-residential day camp presented June 13–15, was open to rising 9th through 12th grade students. One of the more popular learning communities during this camp was the bio-sustainability community.

“Even though it wasn’t my first choice, I was excited to take bio-sustainability. Knowing what’s going on with the planet and the issues that need to be addressed is very important. It’s not something we can neglect,” said Tohma Taniguchi, a junior at North Phoenix Preparatory Academy.

“I feel like this was a good experience to prepare me for college because we’re working with other people who have very different opinions. Many of the topics are more than just black and white, they have a gray area to them,” he said.