The Office of P-20 Initiatives

High school students develop critical skills in UTSA TRIO courses

TOP-LEVEL ATTENTION Jude Valdez, vice president for Community Services, talks with high school students about their projects at the TRIO research symposium.

Instead of being lazy or getting into trouble, Dillon Paez spent six weeks of his summer doing research, attempting to prove his hypothesis that the use of technology while driving influences the number of traffic fatalities.

Paez's research was part of his participation in the Upward Bound program, one of several federal TRIO programs designed to provide assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. At UTSA, eight TRIO programs serve 2,090 low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students as they progress from middle school through graduate school.

As a method of developing a college-going culture, TRIO helps these students prepare for higher education. "I know I wouldn't have gotten as far as I am" without this program, said Paez, a high school senior who has participated in Upward Bound at UTSA since he finished middle school.

During summer sessions, the Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math Science academic programs help prepare TRIO participants for the courses they'll take in the upcoming school year. Taught by credentialed faculty, TRIO course options offer various levels of math studies - all the way up to pre-calculus - as well as laboratory science, literature and composition, and foreign language, including Spanish, Latin and American Sign Language. A research class and symposium round out the program.

The research course develops students' critical thinking skills and also teaches them how to work as a team. Students also learned how to use electronic research tools.

The culmination of the program is the research symposium, a venue in which Paez and fellow UTSA TRIO students can present their faculty-led, college-level research to peers and school administrators

Paez focused his research this summer on the trend of texting while driving in the United States. He chose the topic because he lost two friends to accidents caused by texting while driving.

With faculty mentor Ellen Wolroth, Paez and his teammates hypothesized that technology use in automobiles is on the rise in the U.S., increasing the number of traffic fatalities. The group researched the laws pertaining to texting while driving, along with the number of fatalities attributed to distracted drivers from 1999-2008. The team organized the data by race, gender and age to present at the symposium.

"Upward Bound is an eye-opener to all things that are possible," Paez said. "The program provides a head start to people who would not have considered going to college or doing research. I liked it because it gave me an edge."