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New Mexico State University

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High school students sharpen technological skills at national competition through NMSU

Student participants and staff members of the TRiO Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound programs at New Mexico State University were recently recognized at the 38th Annual Conference for the Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Educational Talent Search participants Martha Hurtado, of Santa Teresa High School in Santa Teresa, N.M.; Sergio Ortiz and Omar Reyes, both from Chaparral High School in Chaparral; and Denise Yanez, of Gadsden High School in Anthony, Texas, won silver and bronze medals in the 2009 TRiO Quest activities sponsored by the University of Washington.

Christopher Gonzales, of Gadsden High School; Christian Nelson, of Chaparral High School; Denise Molina, of Gadsden Middle School; Yarelly Cervantes, of Chaparral Middle School; Justin Oblack, of Gadsden High School; Jonathan Perales, of Chaparral High School; Jesus Rios, of Gadsden High School; Jennifer Hernandez, of Santa Teresa High School; Julian Torres, of Chaparral Middle School; Carol Miller, of Chaparral High School; and Joanna Miller, of Chaparral High School were semifinalists in the Educational Talent Search competition.

Upward Bound participants Lupita Lopez, Karla Solis, Sara Vega and Nohemy Hernandez from Santa Teresa High School, Consuelo Guillen from Mayfield High School, and Raquel Olivas from Las Cruces High School also placed as semifinalists in the competition.

"They did an awesome job given the time that they had. They only had a week to put this together," said Jason Barela, coordinator for the ETS program.

Students from around the country participated in one or more of the three web-based activities in TRiO Quest: Media Quest, PhotoEssay and ThinkQuest TRiO. For Media Quest, students could submit an audio or video on a topic of their choice. Students who entered the PhotoEssay part of the competition were required to create written material that was enhanced by images they took and manipulated for a website. ThinkQuest TRiO required teams of students to research information and write and create educational websites.

Hurtado, Ortiz and Reyes won the silver for their Media Quest entry titled "The Stranger," and Yanez won the bronze for her entry in the same category titled "Now You're Gone."

The students who won silver received digital cameras, and the bronze winner received a flash drive.

The talent search program provides academic, career, college admissions and financial aid advising to middle school and high school students who want to succeed in college. Veronica Martinez, a coordinator for the program, said the students had to learn how to use the different software they needed to know for the competition and then had to develop a project to submit.

"I think the kids worked really hard, and they enjoyed working on the projects too," Martinez said. "They did an amazing job for only working for a week."

Barela said the TRiO program and competition help students build teamwork and communication skills as well as requiring them to put in the effort to complete a task.

Hurtado said that it was fun to participate in the competition because it gave her an opportunity to learn about videos and recording. She added that she could see this being a hobby of hers in the future.

In addition to student participants, Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound staff members also received recognition at this year's conference. Toni Dixon, program coordinator for NMSU's Upward Bound program, and Jason Barela, program coordinator for NMSU's Educational Talent Search program, both graduated from the Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs' Emerging Leadership Institute. The institute identifies, trains and mentors SWASAP members to participate in the leadership and responsibility roles of the association. The roles include committee service as members and/or committee chairs, as well as preparation to hold office on the state, regional and national levels.

Rene Guillaume, director of NMSU's Upward Bound program, assumed the role of the president of the New Mexico/West Texas Association of Student Assistance Programs, an entity of SWASAP. This new role places him on the Board of Directors for SWASAP.

About 2,000 students across the nation participated in the 2009 activities.

TRiO Quest was first funded by the Department of Education to encourage students to begin to master 21st-century learning skills. TRiO was created as a combination of the federal programs Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services. The goal of TRiO Programs is to provide educational opportunities that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.