Successful San Antonio Prefreshman Engineering Program is replicated across nation

Marina Alderete Cavito

1994-1996 PREP participant Marina Alderete Gavito

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(July 29, 2014) --For the last 36 years, the San Antonio Prefreshman Engineering Program (SA-PREP) has compiled an impressive track record preparing more than 16,000 middle and high school students to pursue degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. A survey of student responses found that 90 percent who had completed one summer in the program went on to pursue higher education. Fifty-four percent earned a college degree.

Established in 1979 at The University of Texas at San Antonio by mathematics professor Manuel Berriozabal, SA-PREP has been replicated across the state as TexPREP and across the nation as PREP-USA. Nationwide, PREP programs have served more than 36,000 students and overall college attendance for SA-PREP, TexPREP and PREP-USA participants is 83 percent.

"Many former PREP students tell us how PREP was a life-changing experience for them, and that was no different for Marina Alderete Gavito," said Rudy Reyna, PREP executive director.

Gavito, a distinguished 1994-1996 SA-PREP graduate, served as a student teacher for PREP during her college years. She earned bachelor's degrees in management information systems and corporate financial management from St. Mary's University in 2004 and a master's degree in business operations management from DePaul University in 2008.

Her career started with U.S. Cellular in Chicago, where she held several positions over four years including interactive voice response analyst, resource planning manager and vendor relations manager. Today, she is a senior product manager for Rackspace in San Antonio, ensuring customers have the information they need about their servers, load balancers and monitoring systems. She credits the SA-PREP program with giving her confidence in her abilities and sparking her interest to pursue a technology-related career.

"The math and problem-solving skills I learned in PREP over the summer helped make me a better student during the school year, since I had been exposed to a lot of the information and was already prepared to solve the problems," said Gavito. "I made better grades and gained confidence to pursue my degrees and future technology career."

Gavito says she appreciated the career professionals who made time to inspire and encourage the PREP students to pursue STEM careers. She also enjoyed making new PREP friends from schools all over San Antonio that she still keeps in touch with today.

This summer in San Antonio, a record 1,500+ students are participating in the seven-week program at 10 local university campuses. Courses are being offered at the UTSA Main and Downtown campuses, Northwest Vista College, St. Philip's College Martin Luther King Campus, Northeast Lakeview College, Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, St. Philip's College Southwest Campus, Texas A&M University -- San Antonio and St. Mary's University.

All four levels of PREP courses are being presented through lectures, projects, seminars and hands-on activities that allow the students to learn and apply advanced STEM concepts. The curriculum includes mathematics, problem solving, engineering, physics, technical writing, water science, nanotechnology, computer science, research and STEM career awareness. In addition to gaining a jumpstart on advanced topics in the hard sciences and mathematics, PREP students have the opportunity to earn college scholarships and high school credit.

TexPREP locations include Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Edinburg, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Houston, Irving, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen and Victoria.

PREP-USA is offered at Hostos Community College, Bronx, N.Y.; Jersey City University, Jersey City, N.J.; New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.; University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif.; and Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah.

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Learn more at the PREP website or call 210-458-2060.

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