BRAWLEY — Four students of Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School in Brawley have been nominated to attend the annual National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM, a prestigious national academic program geared to preparing students for futures in STEM.

Aubrey Cazares, Fernando Neri, Felix Lopez, and Isai Parra have been nominated to represent Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School at the National Youth Leadership Forum this summer.

NYLF focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics activities (STEM) and is dedicated to the early identification, motivation, and inspiration of the nation’s most promising elementary school students. The program also provides students with a creative environment to learn leadership and life skills for their future academic and career successes.

The curriculum consists of three STEM related pathways in forensics and crime scene investigation, engineering, and medical, as well as developing leadership skills.

Evelyn Estrada, Hidalgo academic coach, said the students were nominated by their teachers. The students let her know as soon as they received their nomination letters and she was thrilled to hear the news.

Estrada’s son, Jorge Estrada, attended the academy last summer and said he loved it, coming out of it with a great experience. Estrada wanted the same for others. At the end of the program parents were asked to nominate individuals at schools who would nominate future student participants and Estrada chose the Hidalgo staff.

“I thought, ‘Hey, this is something that our students from Brawley should be able to experience,’” said Estrada. “I feel that this plants the little seed of, ‘You know what, I want to go to university.’”

Fernando Neri, of the two fifth graders nominated for NYLF, said he was excited and shocked when his letter came in the mail. If able to attend he hopes to learn more about chemistry, a science he is interested in.

“I was surprised,” said Neri. “I never thought I would get something like that.”

“I feel happy that he was selected out of all of the students in the school,” said Ferando’s mother, Elizabeth Neri.

There is one hurdle for the students. Tuition for the program runs from $2,595 to $5,995, high numbers that can be difficult for families to meet. 

Though she knows it will be difficult, Neri knows it will help her son in his future. Neri said she is glad to see more opportunities for programs such as NYLF are being introduced into the Imperial Valley and hopes the community will support the children.

“I know that it is worth it for his academic development and his future,” said Neri.

Estrada and Hidalgo Principal David Ramos stated the school will be ready to support the families and help them make it to the academy in the summer.

 “We are going to make sure that we can make it happen,” said Estrada. Estrada stated she is already planning to meet with the parents to talk about NYLF and how the school can help get the students into the program.

Estrada hopes that by participating in the event students will come away with the drive that will push them in their academic futures and bring what they learn back to the Valley.

The National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM will be held in at Occidental College in Los Angeles on at the end of June and at University of California, Berkeley near San Francisco in July. Students can attend either of the sessions.

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