Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Academic Connections Leads High School Students to Success

Omid Hedayatnia, high school participant of the Academic Connections Program. 

UC San Diego always has plenty of opportunities for young minds to thrive and grow year-round. One very important program that helps youth explore their academic potential is the UC San Diego Academic Connections (AC) pre-college program.

Gifted high school students from around the world choose UCSD’s pre-college programs, like Academic Connections, to prepare for success, and experience college-level academics. During this year’s AC graduation ceremony, Dr. Ebonee Williams, Executive Director of the Gordon Center, gave a passionate speech about the potential of the students at AC, and how they will have a challenging but successful future ahead.

AC connects high achieving high school students with college-level subjects of their choices. Courses are led and designed by exceptional graduate students as well as world-renowned UCSD faculty researchers from a wide array of academic disciplines, all of whom are experts in their respective fields.

Academic Connections is unique for providing high-school students a thorough glimpse of the academically rigorous college experience at UCSD. Students choose one of approximately 25 courses offered, and accumulate vast knowledge during the three-week class of their choice. Classes meet five hours a day, capping off at about 22 students per class. The small enrollment was specifically chosen to drive quality interaction with instructors.

“Academic Connections was an extraordinary experience for me,” said Omid Hedayatnia, one of the students from AC’s Summer 2016 program. “I want to continue pursuing computer science and artificial intelligence, so I chose the Cognitive Science program.” Omid, who is now the president of his high school’s computer club, enjoyed learning about the different facets of cognitive science, considering that it is a highly multidisciplinary field involving psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy, with a central focus on the mind’s processes.

Students also were able to experience residential life at UCSD, giving them an eye-opening glance about what college living will be like. AC students had the opportunity to participate in recreational activities all day, as well as on the weekends. “There were all kinds of programs, like sports, art, and dancing,” said Omid.

Robin Wittman, program manager of Academic Connections, fully believes in the impact the program makes in preparing bright young minds for college. “We stressed that by working hard and pursuing their passions through education, students could do anything they wanted to do in life,” she said. “There’s nothing more fulfilling to me than helping spread the word about Academic Connections. We have the opportunity to help these bright and promising students chart a positive life course by giving them the skills to thrive.”

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