Silva Magnet Summer Camp Helps Students Pursue Their DREAMS

Middle-school students took a two-week break from their summer vacation to learn about forensics, nutrition and robotics at Silva Health Magnet.

The 200 students are enrolled in the annual Developing Research and Early Aspirations Medical Scholars or DREAMS summer camp.

The program, which began last week, gives incoming sixth graders a chance to explore DNA, solve a fictitious crime, learn to do chest compressions and exercise while learning about staying healthy. The program is open to students who were enrolled in Title 1 elementary campuses.

Program coordinator Ashley Sheldon, a counselor at Terrace Hills Middle School, sees how students flourish in the program, making meaningful connections and grasping new concepts.

“If you go watch a student who has never programmed a robot figure out how to get a robot through an obstacle course, you see the joy in their eyes and the confidence that they didn’t have even the week before,” she said.

Alyssa Rocha – each of her fingertips stained with black ink – magnified her fingerprints to get a closer view during a lesson on forensics. She and her classmates held up their blackened fingerprints while teachers and Silva volunteers walked around the classroom handing out baby wipes.

“I think this is good,” she said, examining her finger-printed masterpiece. “It makes kids get more intelligent and learn more.”

In the hallway, students hunched over laptops programming robots in an obstacle course marked on the floor with masking tape. In another classroom, students studied calories and fats. Sheldon likes the fact that the program is at Silva – giving potential Silva students a glimpse into the classrooms and health-related curriculum. 

“They learn a lot about fingerprints, DNA and things that they were not previously exposed to,” she said. “They love that the physician from the medical school will provide the samples for them to examine. It makes them feel like they’re on their way to medical school.”

Recent Silva graduate Miguel Saucedo returned to Silva this summer to volunteer with the middle schoolers. He’s enjoyed watching them discover and explore the different elements of the camp as they work together to solve problems and figure out practical solutions.

“DREAMS doesn’t just open their minds,” he said. “It opens their imagination and makes them go over the horizon.”

Dejia Quinonez, who will be attending Armendariz in the fall, originally wanted to do a soccer camp but thought DREAMS might open her eyes to a possible career and make new friends.

“So far, it’s been really good,” she said. “We’re learning healthy stuff and exercising. I like the robotics because we’re learning how to put them into races. You really get to put your mind into it.”

Story by Reneé De Santos  Photos by Alicia Chumley – El Paso ISD