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Hillsboro School District offers two-week STEAM summer camp for district's Latino students at Hillsboro High School

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici greets the Si, Se Puede! student tutors at Hilhi July 21. Sitting in a classroom isn't typically how most teenagers want to spend their summer break.

But for students participating in the 'Si, Se Puede!' technology camps at Hillsboro High School, sitting in a classroom is the best way to get ahead.

Since July 11, nearly 100 Hillsboro School District students from grades 7 through 12 — made up primarily by Latino teens — have been learning and teaching in the two week camps. The classes focus on STEAM; science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics lessons in an effort to create opportunities for bi-lingual, underrepresented minority youth in Washington County.

Taught in both English and Spanish by students, with faculty oversight, the free camps are broken up into groups of high school and middle school students, who learn everything from how to program a robot, to soldering, to creating objects using 3D printers.

"Students doing the teaching is so empowering. That's when they learn it," said Hilhi Assistant Principal John Matsuo. "They don't want to sit and get, they want to do."

It's the first bi-lingual STEAM camp of its kind for the district, and the faculty who helped organize the summer program sees it as a way for underserved students to be exposed to the STEAM industry in a more accessible way.

"We're vastly interested in making sure all our students are ready to enter the workforce … and it's a way to diversify that workforce," said Hilhi bi-lingual assistant and Program Technology Coach Miguel Cholula.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Along with Glencoe High School freshman Yasmin Sayago (left) and Program Tech Coach Miguel Cholula (right), Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (center) surveys the work done during the Si, Se Puede! Technology Camp at Hillsboro High School July 21. Growing up, Latino students face different challenges at school than their Caucasian peers, Cholula said, which can distract them from learning. Whether they are working part-time jobs to helping out at home, or are drawn into racial segregation through cliques or gangs, Latino students are rarely given the same opportunities, he said.

"But this program is a way for them to stand up proud of who they are and what they know," Cholula said. "And we want to make sure they understand STEAM is an additional skill and that it's powerful."

To honor the students' efforts and show her support, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) visited the students on Thursday, July 21.

"You're building a reputation," Bonamici, a proponent of STEAM education, told the teens. "It's really inspirational … and hard to believe it's the first time you've done this. It seems so established."

The Congresswoman said she was impressed by the student tutors, in particular.HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Si, Se Puede! student tutors gave Bonamici (left) a robotics presentation during her visit Thursday.

"It not only engages students in STEAM programs, but also gives the student tutors leadership skills," she said. "We have a lot of tech jobs in Washington County. It'd be great if we could fill those open positions with local talent.

“(What you are doing) is relevant to the economy,” she added. “And I hope to see more programs like this."

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