UA Latina Scientists Create CampCIENCIAS for Border Students
Essays earned 20 students a free weeklong exploration into the world of science.

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications
June 11, 2008

Twenty high school students living on the United States side of the border with Mexico will attend the first ever University of Arizona CampCIENCIAS, being held Monday through Friday next week.

The camp, which translates to Camp Science, was conceived of and planned by three Latina program coordinators working at the UA’s U.S. Mexico Binational Center and Superfund Basic Research Program, part of the UA College of Pharmacy.

Mónica Ramirez, Denise Moreno and Rocio Estrella worked with the UA Office of Early Academic Outreach to publicize the camp and recruit students from Arizona border cities to apply for the free camp.

The camp's agenda includes college preparatory information as well as science-learning activities at Mount Lemmon, Flandrau: The UA Science Center, Kartchner Caverns, San Pedro Riparian National Conservatory, the UA Museum of Art, the UA Center for Creative Photography, Biosphere 2, the BIO5 Institute, the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The trio of women leading the camp, all scientists, want more people to become enthused and join the field. Ramirez, a program coordinator for the Binational Center and Superfund Basic Research Program has an undergraduate degree from the UA in ecology and evolutionary biology and studio art and a master's from Columbia University in environmental science and policy.

Moreno is also a program coordinator for the Binational Center and Superfund Basic Research Program and holds an undergraduate degree in environmental science from Northern Arizona University and a master’s in watershed management from the UA.

Estrella has an undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering and a master's in soil, water and environmental science from the UA and is a program coodinator for the Binational Center.

The 20 students were selected based on their CampCIENCIAS application essays in which they wrote about themselves and their hometowns and listed the reasons why they were interested in attending the camp. The students picked for the camp hail from Rio Rico, Nogales, Yuma, Douglas and the Tohono O’odham Nation and will stay in UA dorms for four of the five days of camp. One of the five nights of camp will be spent at Biosphere 2.

The idea for the camp stemmed from the experiences of the Binational Center and the Superfund program coordinators.

“Coordinating and designing camps with the UA College of Science at Flandrau helped me realized how important learning experiences outside of academia can be – I have seen how they improve confidence and motivate education,” Ramirez said.

Moreno added, “I’m from Nogales and grew up on both sides of the border and there are no informal science educational summer activities. That got us thinking about how we could provide a camp experience for kids who live in this region.”

They presented the concept of the camp to their mentor and the director of the Binational Center and the Superfund program, A. Jay Gandolfi. Gandolfi is the associate dean for pharmaceutical sciences graduate programs at the UA College of Pharmacy.

He supports their ideas and the team’s community education efforts, such as toxicology training with promotoras (health advocates) and the development of binational workshops that bring in experts from around the world to address environmental concerns.

Once given the go-ahead from Gandolfi, the women began looking for funding to underwrite the camp and cover tuition, room and board for the 20 students.

A grant from the UA Technology and Research Initiative Funds, known as TRIF, via the Water Sustainability Program made the camp possible. TRIF is a state tax that funds special investments in higher education made possible by the passage of Proposition 301 in November 2000.

The 20 students will gain skills in science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on learning experiences in a variety of scientific disciplines including ecology, biology and astronomy, along with undergraduate student mentors who will talk about their experience as UA students and will promote positive behavior, self-confidence and healthy risk-taking.

The last day of camp features a graduation ceremony for family and friends of the CampCIENCIAS campers, who will be recognized and sent back home with a certificate of accomplishment.

Ramirez, Moreno and Estrella hope they'll also leave with a new network of peers and mentors, plus an enthusiasm for science.


Resources for the media

Mónica Ramirez

Research Translation Coordinator

Superfund Basic Research Program