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ASU helps high school students achieve success

June 28, 2005

Something wonderful is happening at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, and ASU has had a role in making it happen.

At least 58 Carl Hayden seniors have been admitted to ASU, including 13 of them in engineering disciplines, according to teacher Allan Cameron. Many are the first in their families to graduate from high school - and most, if not all, will be the first to attend college. The majority of students at the inner-city school are Hispanic, with limited financial means.

Eleven of the graduating seniors are in the Falcon Robotics Club, an extracurricular science and technology club that has been making headlines for the past four years, ever since their team won a national competition and beat powerhouse universities such as MIT. Two members of that original team are students at ASU, and the current team just played host to their first National Underwater Robotics Challenge in Chandler.

Cameron and his fellow teacher Fredi Lajvardi started the club to show students that engineering can be fun and exciting. Among other projects, the group creates underwater robots that take on different challenges. In the Chandler competition, teams had to remotely drive the robots underwater to the interior of a mock submarine to retrieve two "armed torpedoes" without detonation.

Suzie Kwan, an ASU recruiter and Carl Hayden alumna, has taken the club under her wing, helping them with their activities. But on a larger scale, she and Katie Sisulak, Access ASU coordinator, and others have helped change the culture at Carl Hayden, in the process making ASU a vital part of the high school community. Many ASU faculty are active with the school.

"The bottom line is that, instead of treating the kids as prospective students, they work with the students, talk to them, and get to know them by name," Cameron says. "ASU representatives are here every week, talking to them about college, how to prepare, how to get in, how to pay for it. Our kids now feel comfortable with ASU.

"The idea of college was pretty foreign a few years ago. It was a major event in our neighborhood if someone graduates from high school. That's changed, and it's now part of our school's culture that you go to college. It's mainly ASU that's doing this."

Sisulak says it's a misconception that high school students know what to do to prepare for college. She and Kwan bring the students information on ASU summer programs and financial aid resources, as well as presentations from ASU faculty and staff.

"ASU recognizes the talent and efforts at Carl Hayden, and we assist in the matriculation of all their students, not just the robotics team members," Sisulak says. "Carl Hayden has made great strides in all their academic departments, and ASU is working with the teachers and administrators to bring more AP classes to the school, strengthening the preparation of the students.

"The robotics students at Carl Hayden have found wonderful mentors in Fredi and Allan. They just neeed some additional resources to make that next step."