August 01, 2017

Senior Victor Rodriguez shares his experience at the High School Summer Academy in Anaheim

High School Academy student Victor Rodriguez
Kimberly O’Toole, Programs Manager – TGR Learning Lab with Victor Rodriguez

Through a grant provided by the California Community Foundation, the Tiger Woods Foundation was able to host our High School Summer Academy last week. Fifty high school students from the Los Angeles area experienced the life of a college student for one week.

Their days were spent at the TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, where they explored STEM careers through project-based classes such as DIY chemistry, mobile app design and robotics engineering. In the afternoons, participants dove deeper into topics such as coding, solar car design, golf club engineering and TGR EDU Explore’s college blueprint module during enrichment workshops.

In the evenings, our students dormed at the University of California, Irvine, while participating in college-related workshops and activities.

Victor Rodriguez, a rising senior at Bell High School, shares his experience during High School Summer Academy.

In ancient Chinese legends, a carp must first swim up a raging river to turn into a ferocious dragon. The Tiger Woods Foundation helped me turn into the ferocious dragon I am now.

Bursting with excitement like a bullet roaring through the air, I arrived at UCI for the Tiger Woods Foundation’s High School Summer Academy. Reaching the top of the line to receive my keycard, dining bracelet and a firm handshake from the amazing Kimmy O’Toole, my parents gave me a love-filled hug and sent me on my way. After moving in all my belongings for the week, we headed outside of the dormitories for icebreakers and scavenger hunts, which set the tone for the rest of the week.

When we arrived at the TGR Learning Lab each morning, we made our way to our core classes, which made up the majority of our learning day. I was extremely excited to participate in DIY Chemistry and watch my peers take part in Mobile App Design and Robotics Engineering.

Mobile App Design provided students with the opportunity to design their own mobile game app while learning about what it takes to create one. Meanwhile, Robotics Engineering allowed students to build their own balsa wood bridge, then construct a robot to carry a load to drop onto the bridge to test its strength.

The activities and lessons were absolutely exciting! That’s the kind of education I prefer: visually impressive and hands on – the hand holding from the teacher ultimately devalues the experiment as the students don’t flex their mental muscles to find the right solution to get the best result.

In addition to our Core classes, each afternoon we chose a difference enrichment workshop to participate in. One of the most impactful workshops was the College Blueprint module. It never donned on me how rigorous the college application process was, nor how many possibilities there were for the types of campuses or even how competitive they were, and especially how expensive college could be.

Thankfully, the class educated me on the types of campuses based on a personalized multiple-choice test, gave tips on deadlines and essay writing and even gave LOADS of resources for scholarship, grants and loan opportunities, all of which I had little to no knowledge about. For a stressed-out student who has enough to worry about like AP classes, it was a major relief having the College Blueprint class. I’d even recommend it to some students at my own school.

Aside from chemistry, mobile app design and robotics engineering, we also learned more about ourselves. For a teenager like me, having a program that spends time on our identity rather than our grades, work and physical bodies, it was extremely refreshing and comforting because I now believe in the ability to believe in myself more.

We also created our own elevator speeches in an evening workshop where we took the time to think about what we have accomplished and our aspirations for the future to create a sixty second summary. However, one of my favorite nights from the program came when we trekked to Laguna Beach to see Hairspray the musical. I even danced on stage during intermission with other cast members.

High School Academy STEM activity

As I reflect back on my week at High School Summer Academy, I am grateful to the Tiger Woods Foundation for the opportunity they provided me. They introduced me to new experiences through the lens of a college student: appreciating fine arts, studying topics that I truly have a passion for and making new friends. Now, more than ever, I am eagerly awaiting my college journey to begin.


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