Aromas School student Max Castro,13, woke up at 6:45 every morning last week. Max’s mom dropped him off at his friend Hudson Cortez’s house on her way to work at California Giant Berry Farms. Even though school was not in session, the two boys walked 10 minutes to Aromas School to catch the 8:25 bus to Graniterock’s headquarters in Watsonville, where they joined 112 other students from Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito county middle schools for Graniterock’s Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy.
“It’s been a great experience,” Max said. “I’ve been learning a lot, met a bunch of new people.”
The math program was created in 2010 by Woolpert, a former Graniterock president, and Kevin Jeffery, the company’s vice president. In the first year, 30 students from Rolling Hills Middle School took part in the program.
Woolpert was passionate about math and education, so the program is designed to challenge high-achieving math students, said Graniterock Executive Director Christy Zepeda.
This year’s program began Aug. 6 and went from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Two groups were taught at Graniterock’s headquarters, while a third worked at Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch.
Rancho San Justo Middle School student Ariana Rivera said her favorite part of the program was the opportunities it provides.
“You learn things here that you will learn later and you can get ahead of your peers,” she said.
The students were taught in an in-class setting by professors from CSU-Monterey Bay and UC-Santa Cruz. Each group also had middle school teachers and university teacher-assistants to help the students.
In order to attend the Woolpert Algebra Academy, students needed to have a teacher recommendation and pass a placement exam. According to Zepeda, students took the exam in the spring and received their results during spring break.
Students took a field trip Aug. 8 to CSUMB to inspire their pursuit of higher education. Rancho San Justo Middle School students Alexis Montoya and Elena Shevan said they plan to attend Stanford University.
Shevan said: “It feels really good that my math teacher recommended me because now I can get an advanced in my academics and I’ll be ahead of my other class and I’ll be more familiar with the material.”
Montoya said math was important to her because she plans to major in sports medicine. “You use math everyday and you use it there also with the dosage and with medicine.”
The incoming 8th graders were separated into three groups, each with a concentrated math class, Zepeda said.
Tres Pinos School student Makiley Mezera said being accepted into the program validated all her hard work. “I’m learning so much more so I feel a lot more confident about math.”