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Summer Research Apprentice Program
Monique Baca is hours away from home, in an unfamiliar place.
She’s living with people she didn’t know until a few weeks ago.
Her days are full of labwork and homework. Her stress level is a bit higher. Her finances are her responsibility.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is an extremely valuable experience for me. Nobody in my family has ever done anything like this, not even my brother and sister who are older than me. They went to trade schools. But I will be the first in our family to go to an actual university,” says Baca, one of 16 high school students participating in the 2012 Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP) at the University of Wyoming. “To have something like this makes me know I can go to college, that it’s not just for wealthy people.”
She smiles and adds, “Being here helps me feel like I belong on a college campus.”
An intensive six-week paid summer research program established in 1985, SRAP provides minority, first-generation and female students with the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in a collegiate setting. The program is sponsored and funded by Wyoming EPSCoR, a federal grant program that enables Wyoming to be nationally competitive in science and technology.
In Laramie, SRAP students are paired with UW professors and graduate students to study in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines and prepare posters and academic papers on their individual research topics.
“We don’t just look for minority, female and first-generation students. We look for students who really want this experience,” says SRAP Coordinator Lisa Abeyta, who participated in the program in 2007 before enrolling at UW, where she earned her degree in psychology. “This program helps students to gain a sense of individuality and to see what life could be like in college.
“This,” she says, “can be a life-changing experience.”
After SRAP served as a springboard for his older brother, Robert, who is now pursuing his master’s degree at Harvard University, Christopher Hoyt was eager to become involved in the program.
A junior-to-be from Denver, Hoyt says SRAP has already helped him become comfortable with the college experience -- from navigating a campus to interacting with professors.
“This is on-the-job experience,” he says. “I know I want to go into a scientific field, I just don’t know what to expect. At least I didn’t until now.”
In addition to exposing students to workplace expectations and educational and cultural experiences on a college campus, SRAP routinely serves as an introduction to UW and the Cowboy State.
Armando Guerra, a junior-to-be from Roma, Texas, admits he “would have never considered” looking to Wyoming for college. Now, though, UW is on his radar.
“It’s been pretty fun living like a college student and learning what it’s like to go to class and have that responsibility,” he says during a recent lunch break inside the UW Honors House, where SRAP students are staying during the program. “I would like being here. It’s easy to find your way around the campus, and everybody is friendly.”
The program is as accessible as it is transformative. Unlike similar programs -- Baca says she paid nearly $4,000 last summer for a 12-day camp at Brown University -- SRAP is nearly free, with participating students paying only their travel and personal expenses.
Program funding covers room and board, meals and salaries.
“All I had to do was pay for my travel,” says Baca, a senior-to-be from Denver who is considering UW because its out-of-state tuition is more affordable than most schools in her homestate. “They take care of everything else for you.”
The brainchild of Dolores Cardona, UW’s associate dean of students, SRAP has partnered with about 375 students over its first 26 years. To learn more about the program, go to the website at http://www.uwyo.edu/epscor/fellowships-and-student-programs/srap/.