PROP Program Underway at A&M International Campus

Eight local high school students will spend the next several weeks studying science at Texas A&M International University thanks to an innovative program called PROP.

PROP, or Pre-College Research Opportunity Program, is an 11-week program designed to provide at-risk high school students with hands-on laboratory experience in science, medicine, and chemistry.

The program was created through a partnership by Communities in Schools (CIS), Southwestern Bell Telephone, which provided PROP with a $5,000 donation, and A&M International. The University developed the PROP curriculum and is providing the facilities and faculty for the program.

PROP faculty are Dr. Mario Garcia-Rios, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Bertha A. Barba, visiting assistant professor of chemistry; and Dr. Maria Ruby Guajardo, visiting instructor of chemistry. The three teach in the University's College of Science and Technology. They volunteered for PROP as part of their committment to community service.

Students participating in PROP are Jacob Medina, Alexander High School; Julio Castro, Cigarroa High School; Ruth Flores, Laura Guzman, and Jennifer Montes, Martin High School; Rosalia Aguilar and Julia Cadena, Nixon High School; and Cindy Torres-Zambrano, United South High School. The students were selected for the program based on their interest in science and other criteria. They will receive a small stipend for their participation.

Among the topics the students will study under PROP are microbiology, culturing bacteria and fungi, purification of proteins and nucleic acids, forensic medicine, applied chemistry, molarity, thin-layer chromatography, computational biology and chemistry, and bioremediation.

Dr. Garcia-Rios, who developed and implemented the pilot PROP program last year, said the PROP curriculum will give students a solid foundation for future studies.

"The science, chemistry, and biology basics these students will learn are typical of what freshmen students learn at A&M International and other universities. We hope that by succeeding in this program, these students will be encouraged to stay in school and continue their education after high school," he said.

Communities in Schools, the largest stay-in-school network program in the country, provides at-risk students with rewarding alternatives to dropping out. The Laredo CIS program serves over 1,2000 students on a one-to-one basis and over 10,000 students in group settings.

For more information about Communities in Schools, contact Jose L. Gonzalez or Robert Sanchez at 791-2199.

For more information about the PROP program at A&M International, contact Dr. Garcia-Rios at 326-2585.

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