WATSONVILLE — While their peers were living out the last week of summer vacation, 130 middle school students chose to buckle down and delve into a subject near and dear to their hearts.
The weeklong Graniterock Algebra Academy, now in its eighth year, is a chance for students to get a jumpstart on the math they will be using in high school and beyond.
It is led by math professors from UC Santa Cruz and CSU Monterey Bay, and aided by college math majors.
Also on hand to help were a handful of high school-age academy graduates.
In addition, Graniterock employees speak to the students every morning about how they apply algebra in their daily work, giving the teens good reason why math skills pay off in the future.
The academy was launched in 2010 by Graniterock’s former President and CEO Bruce Woolpert and Vice President Kevin Jeffery to serve as an algebra immersion camp.
The hope was to reduce the high numbers of high school graduates who need remedial math when they reach college by reaching them in middle school.
“We wanted to change the culture,” said Woolpert’s wife Rose Ann Woolpert. “We wanted the Pajaro Valley to be a place that produces mathematicians.”
Woolpert said such a mission is somewhat “self-serving.”
“We want them to come back and work for us,” she said.
This year was the first that all PVUSD middle schools were included in the academy. The program also boosted its number of students from 100 last year.
The academy is normally held at the company’s Watsonville headquarters, but this year expanded to Driscoll’s Berry Company’s Silliman Road location.
“This is an opportunity to bring local students who are like-minded and who are motivated,” said coordinator Christy Zepeda. “We want them to go back to school and be math leaders.”
Eighth-grader Kerrigan Smith, 13, of Aptos, said the course offered her a strong opportunity to make her way into college.
“I think the instructors are really good,” she said. “This is a really good program. I would recommend this program to any of my friends. Even now I feel more prepared for my classes at Cabrillo and for my future.”
Brenda Aguiano Gonzalez, an eighth-grader at Pajaro Middle School, said the program was helping her sharpen her math skills.
“These people understand where I am and they work with me,” she said. “I feel I can fit in better now with what is going on in math.”
Participating schools include Aptos Junior High School, Aromas School, Calaveras School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, E.A. Hall Middle School, Lakeview Middle School, Pajaro Middle School, Rancho San Justo Middle School, Rolling Hills Middle School, San Juan School and Tres Pinos School.