High school sophomore is one of nine students receiving a full-ride scholarship to 2015 programming
In the spring of 2015, Cynthia Cortez finished her sophomore year at Holtville High School; for that summer, she headed to campus for UC San Diego Extension’s three-week Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability Program taking place in partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and Washington D.C.
It’s one of many programs being held as part of UC San Diego Extension’s Academic Connections offerings this summer. Each one will give students the chance to experience campus life and college courses before they arrive as full-time students to UC San Diego, or the school of their choice.
This wasn't Cortez’s first summer with Academic Connections. In 2014, she participated in the Media Matters program that teaches students how to analyze the way social groups are depicted in popular media.
“Cortez has shown she is a model student, with qualities like passion and enthusiasm that make her a natural leader,” said Ed Abeyta, assistant dean of community engagement. “That’s why we invited her back as an ambassador of UC San Diego Extension for interested Valley students, and to participate in the new Global Environmental Leadership & Sustainability Program on a full scholarship.”
In the three-week program, students begin at Scripps to conduct research before traveling to Washington D.C. to present their findings to government agencies and elected officials. “I think I’m looking forward to the research half the most,” said Cortez. “We’re going to need to work together despite diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experience to arrive at a singular message to take to Washington—so I’ll get to draw on my past experience with Academic Connections as well.”
“I got so much out of Media Matters,” said Cortez. “It really opened my eyes. We can see clearly how different groups—whether set apart by race, economics, or geography—are depicted on screen and start to ask questions about it. And it also helped me with the culture shock of moving away from home. UC San Diego is my first-pick school, and I already feel much more prepared to arrive, thanks to my experience in the dorms and on campus.”
Cortez was chosen by 400 of her peers to deliver remarks at the program’s closing ceremonies last year. “I’ve had the chance to speak publicly about the program a couple of times now, but to be honest I’m still looking for the words to describe how amazing it was,” she said.
The Academic Connections programs are taught by post-grads, doctoral students, and university professors on campus and feature a wide range of courses including engineering, robotics, audiovisual, writing, philosophy, cognitive science and neuroscience.
“What I’m most excited about is learning how to be a better leader, and also how to communicate my ideas, whatever they may be,” said Cortez. “The opportunities through Academic Connections changed my thinking, and opened my mind. There is so much more out there than what I’ve seen at home.”