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High school program sends minority students to the Ivy League

Marisol Aguilar | 8/18/2010, 5 p.m.

While it is not easy for underrepresented students to attend college due to either lack of financial resources, guidance, support or the combination of all three, 15 fortunate inner city high school students gained the experience of a lifetime through the Latino and African American High School Internship Program (LA-HIP) that is expected to open doors to many colleges.

The program is a six-week long commitment that promotes and helps students, who are going into their senior year in high school, gain experience in biomedical research as well as assistance with the college admission process.

Founded in 2005 by Emil Bogenmann, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Saban Research Institute of Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles, the program doesn't only allow the students to work in a research lab with professionals who mentor the young people, but they also receive SAT preparatory classes, professional college and financial aid counseling, selected college trips and a $1,000 stipend along with a certificate.

"[The interns] will not only obtain experience in science and psychology, but they also grow and they become self assured," Bogenmann said. "[This program] is a unique and comprehensive approach of trying to get students interested in science."

Bogenmann started LA-HIP because minority students together represent a majority of the nation's population, and are the ones who will be running the country in the near future. And the program does not only choose young people with the best GPA.

"It's about opportunities," said Bogenmann.

He added that while some students may not have a perfect GPA, they still deserve opportunities. He also talked about how one of his past interns had a 2.8 GPA, at the time he was recruited, yet the professor saw something in the student. A year later that individuals was attending an Ivy League school.

The program looks at the student's application, GPA, letters of recommendation and their personal statement.

The 15 interns in the program this year presented their research results to a room of about 50 people August 17 at the Saban Research Institute.

Ruqqayah Malik, a Bravo Medical Magnet High School student, was one of the 15 who presented her work. The Nigeria native will be the first from her family to attend a university in the United States. She hopes to attend Harvard, her dream school, but is also considering Williams College, Princeton University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she plans to major in chemistry or biology.

"I want to be a neurosurgeon," Malik said, adding that her father is a doctor in Saudi Arabia and medicine runs in her family. But what really helped her know she wanted to be a doctor was when, at the tender age of 12, she read "Gifted Hands" by Ben Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"LA-HIP helped me with the college application process and gave me lab skills, but it also helped me become more confident about my abilities," Malik said.

Like her peers, Malik was assigned a mentor to guide her through the program--Dr. Thomas Lee, director of the Retina Institute in the vision center at Childrens Hospital.

Even though the program only runs through the summer, Bogenmann doesn't sever his connections with his students. Instead he keeps in touch with them via facebook and has an annual celebration in December.