Around the Pier: High School Students Focus on the Future


With their hands on deck in marine mud or on the controls of shipboard equipment, 20 students and four teachers from Compton High School took part in a unique summertime voyage aboard the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego research vessel Robert Gordon Sproul.

The day-long cruise was a featured element of “Focus on the Future: The Compton – UC San Diego Connection,” a specially designed set of activities based at Scripps and coordinated with UC San Diego Extension’s Academic Connections program.

Focus on the Future, an extension of previous initiatives by Scripps and UC San Diego to reach out to underserved communities in and around Southern California, is part of an ongoing effort across the UC San Diego campus to increase the diversity of the university’s student body, faculty, and staff. Academic Connections is a three-week pre-college summer academic and residential program for motivated, high achieving, college-bound high school students. The program provides students with the opportunity to experience life and learning at a top-ranked university.

While the Compton High students immersed themselves in core academic courses—from marine microbiology, earth sciences, and engineering to photography and music—they also participated in customized Focus on the Future activities. During their trip onboard Sproul, the students had the rare opportunity to examine freshly extracted seafloor sediment samples and deploy oceanographic instruments.

Compton High School teacher Kimberly Ponce called it an “amazing experience.” Student Tanya Contreras used similar descriptors about her adventure aboard Sproul. “The research ship was amazing,” Contreras told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’ve never been on anything like that in my life. We got to use the equipment and see so much.”

The students also went behind-the-scenes inside Scripps laboratories, toured Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and spent time inside Scripps’ Collections inspecting oceanographic samples. They also were treated to special presentations from leading marine scientists about marine ecology and life in the deep sea, as well as current high-profile topics such as Scripps’ involvement in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

“These students are the type of young scholars that we hope to attract to UC San Diego and Scripps,” said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “These are tomorrow’s leaders who will help us address the challenges facing our planet, including developing new clean energy sources, addressing the availability of food and water supplies, and finding new medicines to treat human diseases.”

The program was underwritten by Scripps and UC San Diego this year, with the hope of raising funds for future scholarships to expand the programs for new students and schools.

“This is an experience I’ll never forget,” said Compton High School student Laree Pollard at the conclusion of the program. “You made us feel like part of the Scripps family.”

—Mario C. Aguilera

Sep/Oct 2010

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