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Governor urges investment in education

August 10, 2007

Students in Jay Abramson’s pre-calculus class undoubtedly are used to surprise quizzes, but on a recent Thursday they had a surprise visitor: Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano stopped at ASU’s Tempe campus to learn about the Math Science Honors Program (MSHP), a summer “immersion program” in math that is designed to help under-represented students get a head start on college.
Each summer, high school students from throughout the state come to the ASU campus to take university-level classes that earn them college credit.

Napolitano was briefed on the program before going to Abramson’s class by Carlos Castillo-Chavez, executive director of ASU’s Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute/Institute for Strengthening Understanding of Mathematics and Science (MTBI/SUMS), and Rebeca Ronstadt-Contreras, a senior coordinator for MTBI/SUMS.

MSHP, which is under the umbrella of (MTBI/SUMS) and is one of 70 summer programs at ASU, is devoted to “providing a successful university experience for students who are under-represented in the mathematics and science fields,” notes Eugene Garcia, ASU’s vice president for educational partnerships.

Many of these students will be the first in their families to attend college, and MSHP shows them that they can go on to earn degrees. It helps them “develop the concept of alternative futures,” Garcia says.

The students apply for the program, are tested, then placed in one of the five- or eight-week sessions. They live on campus, in Palo Verde Main residence hall, attend class six hours per day, do daily homework assignments, take quizzes twice a week and have weekly exams. During the evening, they participate in problem-solving sessions and meet with tutors.

In the end, they will have a head start on college – which MSHP leaders hope the students will continue building on as students at ASU.
Students can return for more than one summer, and some have graduated from high school with 12 credits already on their college record, Ronstadt-Contreras says.

Maple So, 16, who will graduate from Yuma High School next year, says she chose to come to MSHP because the ASU classes are “more in-depth” than the ones at her high school.

At the end of her visit, Napolitano answered questions from the students for nearly 30 minutes.

One student asked, “What experiences helped you to get where you are?”

“Education,” Napolitano answered. “My parents had both gone to college, so it was expected that I would go to college. I picked areas that I liked to study, and I worked very hard.”

Napolitano urged the students to try different subject areas, and to “find out what your passion is.”

Another student asked Napolitano what he and his classmates could do to help Arizona.

“Do what you’re doing. Get prepared for the future and invest in yourself,” she replied.