While the majority of high school students are out of classrooms for summer vacation, school is still in session for more than 350 students who are attending University of the Pacific's first-time summer institute.
The Pacific Summer High School Institute is a two-week residential program held from June 19 through July 1, designed to give local high school students a taste of college.
"Everything's been quite new and different, but it's been a nice experience," Aleena Aguirre, a McNair High School senior, said. "I've been venturing out and making new friends, and learning about topics I've never gotten the chance to study before."
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, students have the option of choosing one of 13 hands-on courses such as coding, cancer research, entrepreneurship, innovation, and esports and video game development.
Aguirre said she is particularly fond of the innovation course, which required her to construct a 3D printing model as part of her final project.
Aguirre, who wants to become a pediatrician, said she is considering attending a local university like Pacific or California State University, Sacramento. She has not identified a school as a top pick yet, but the Pacific Summer High School Institute has given her a better idea of what to expect out of college.
"I think we should have more programs like this," Aguirre said. "It does help a lot of students see what the college atmosphere is like and maybe convince the students who are unsure about college to go."
Niraj Chaudhary, associate dean of Technology Enhanced Learning and Innovation at Pacific, teaches the innovation course. He said working with "new and young talent" excites him most about teaching in the program.
"I'm always fascinated by the creativity they bring," Chaudhary said. "Because the course focuses so much on technology, students get to express their creativity with these new and amazing tools, which is pretty mind-blowing. I've learned quite a bit from the students just by seeing what they can do."
Chaudhary said that in his course, students focus on at least one new tool in technology every day. The tools that students utilize include 3D modeling, drones and virtual reality.
"The students have never really had access to this kind of technology before," Chaudhary said. "Going through these aha moments and seeing them be amazed by this kind of technology has been the highlight for me."
Chaudhary said he believes all high school students should take advantage of programs like the Pacific institute.
"They're getting that kind of exposure at a very early age and it opens the door up to all kinds of possibilities for them as they look towards their futures in terms of attending college and exploring career paths," Chaudhary said.
Arya Tripathi, a junior from Fremont, said she wanted to attend the program so that she can get a sneak peek at college life. She plans on majoring in mathematics.
"I heard some good things about Pacific and their programs," Tripathi said. "When I went to their website and saw the different courses they were offering, I thought it looked really interesting. I thought, 'This might be cool to try out.' "
Tripathi said she knows other high school students who are intimidated by going to programs similar to Pacific's.
"They shy away because of the applications and the interviews and they're like, 'What if I don't get in?' But this doesn't have any of that so it's easy," Tripathi said.
Caleb Thuotte of Lodi said he wants to become a video game developer. He said the esports and video game development course has been beneficial for him because it's helped him learn more about the industry he wants to work in one day.
The Lodi High senior also said the Pacific Summer High School Institute has lessened his fears about going off to college.
"Living in a dorm and having a roommate isn't as bad as it's chalked up to be," Thuotte said. "It's nice that the institute has given us the full experience. I'm not as scared to go to college anymore."
To learn more about the Pacific Summer High School Institute, visit pacific.edu.
Record reporter Hannah Workman covers news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byhannahworkman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Pacific summer institute gives high schoolers a preview of college life