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Program opens doors to math, science


July 24, 2008

ASU is opening the doors to the world of math and science for thousands of high school students who come from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. The university’s Math and Science Honors Program (MSHP) has helped students discover and develop their full potential.

Wellington Carranza is one such student. When Carranza was 14 years old, he came to the United States from Guatemala with the desire to get an education and to share and experience his love for math and science.

“To understand science is to understand humanity,” Carranza says. “Most of the changes that have allowed humanity to grow have been connected to science. I decided to become an engineer because engineers want and have the ability to create and improve options for every person on the planet.”

Carranza, whose father reached just the second grade in his education, is the first person in his family to graduate from college. Last year, Carranza received his degree in aeronautical engineering from ASU.

He is employed by Goodrich in Alabama, an aeronautical company that also designs U.S. military airplanes.

“This is a very competitive field and I work with some of the smartest people in the world, but being part of the MSHP has allowed me to work effectively in teams with people from diverse backgrounds,” Carranza says. “To complete projects successfully, it is not only necessary to understand what you are doing, but you also need to work and communicate effectively with people.”

The ASU Math and Science Honors Program was created more than 20 years ago with the goal to increase the representation of minority students and first-generation students into the sciences and math fields.

“Since the creation of the program high school students compete for the opportunity to participate,” says Rebeca Ronstadt-Contreras, senior coordinator for MSHP. “More than 2,000 students from 140 high schools in Arizona have participated in the program.”

The students who earn their place are enrolled in university-level mathematics or science courses and receive college credit. The classes are intense and rigorous, and standards are high. Features of the program include instruction in traditional format combined with daily problem sessions, frequent testing and one-on-one tutoring.

“Once a student is accepted many doors start to open for them, as they receive guidance from ASU staff to increase their possibilities of completing a college education after they graduate from high school,” Ronstadt-Contreras says.

Carranza is convinced that attending the program made the difference in his life, as it allowed him to create goals for his personal and academic life.

“The program allowed me to see that nothing in life happens without effort and discipline,” he says. “Students need to realize that, even if they decide not to attend college, they still will be required to put effort and discipline in any job they end up performing. It makes more sense to put effort into a college education that will offer more benefits in the long run.”