Students from Antioch High’s special science program took three of the top four awards at this summer’s BRAVO Biotech competition.
The partnership began three years ago, and this summer it hit a high note. Antioch High School connected with Berkeley’s Biotech Partners in 2015.
The idea: Provide a first-rate/cutting-edge biotechnology program for largely low-income and minority students.
Liz Terry, AHS biology chair, said: “This program allows juniors and seniors to participate in real world applications of the biotechnology industry.
“Students start their junior year learning the basic laboratory skills they need to be a level-one technician in any Bay Area biotechnology firm.”
Skills include gel electrophoresis, genetic transformation, PCR and more. There is also an abundance of lab experience, in addition to students learning the business side – being professional at work, writing resumes and cover letters, and participating in mock interviews.
After completing the first year, many students earned a summer paid internship at a variety of local companies, including Joint Genome Institute, the Joint Bioenergy Institute, Public Health Lab in Martinez, Kaiser, and MQA. Of the 27 students in that program, 24 were given internships.
The second year of the program focused on application of the concepts – mitochondrial extraction and sequencing, ELISA, PCR of water samples and other vital components.
Students are mentored by scientists, culminating in the BRAVO Biotech competition with top pupils from Berkeley, San Marine and Oakland Technical high school.
This summer, Antioch High students took top honors in three of the four categories, along with an honorable mention. The award winners were Olivia Avalos, Jetzi Guzman, Andrew Roldan and Raven Young.
As a bonus of the success, the Biotech program continues to expand, with student interest soaring.
“We are excited to be growing the program and are looking forward to a new set of candidates who will compete for internships again this year.”
In their senior year, students go beyond basic lab science and apply their knowledge to environmental issues.
“Their knowledge base is more akin to a graduate level education in college,” Terry said.
After the second year, students can continue the program by applying to the BCI program at Los Medanos College. That two-year program allows students to work in the biotech field. During their time in BCI, students receive concentrated tutoring and a set of life skills.
“This all-encompassing bridge to career program is a real asset to Antioch High students.”
AHS is the only school in the Antioch Unified School District participating in this hands-on/real-world science program.