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MITE2S program introduces high school seniors to science, engineering and MIT campus life

Amid the gaggles of day campers and throngs of tourists traveling the Infinite Corridor this summer, campus habitu��� may have come across other, smaller groups of young people, too old to be day campers and too young to be MIT students.

These 58 young scholars were participants in the Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Science Program(MITE2S), a competitive, academic summer program for talented high school seniors who choose to spend six weeks of summer in a very intensive academic environment.

MIT established MITE2S 24 years ago as a way of introducing under-represented minority students to engineering and science at the university level. The program competes with about 400 other summer academic programs in the United States. Some 14 of these are designed specifically for minorities or other selected groups, and a mere eight of those concentrate on engineering, mostly for a week's duration. Last year MIT added an entrepreneurship component to its six-week program, creating a very well-defined niche.

"This is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. We like to call it the Granddaddy of these programs," said Karl Reid (SB '84, SM '85), executive director of special programs for the School of Engineering, the office that runs both MITE2S and the Engineering Internship Program (EIP). "Most students decline other programs for this one."

In fact, some participants, like 17-year-old Tarik Ward of Uniondale, NY, who learned of the program while in grade school, eagerly awaited the opportunity to get a MITE2S head start on college.

"I knew since I was a little kid in sixth grade that I wanted to come to MIT. My sister has a friend who graduated from MIT. He was a tutor in the MITE2S program," Mr. Ward said. But after completing the extensive application, which requires high school transcripts, PSAT scores, three essays and three letters of recommendations, Mr. Ward didn't know if he'd make the grade.

"I didn't think I could get in," he said.

"My father and I were on vacation in Jamaica. The day I came back I threw down my bags and ran over to the stack of mail. There was a big yellow envelope from MIT. I ripped it open and read the first word: 'Congratulations.' I was really happy. Then the joy kind of dissipated when I read on to where it said, 'You will have six or seven hours of homework a day.'"

This year, MITE2S received 233 applications for 60 spots. Only six of the 60 initial offers were declined. All the students are admitted on full scholarship--food, housing and tuition are provided.

Although the letters MIT in MITE2S (Minorities Introduction) are not an acronym for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute's traditions clearly inform the program's agenda and scheduling, as students discovered right away.

After arriving on Sunday, June 21, they set to work that same afternoon with orientation and a campus tour. The next day, Monday, they spent two hours in an Athena crash course and four hours taking diagnostic exams to determine placement in two sections each of calculus, physics, chemistry or biochemistry and writing.

"I was exhausted," Mr. Ward said about the long day of diagnostic exams. "That first week was the longest week of my life."

The schedule includes 10 hours daily of classes, tutoring and study time, with 10 instructors and 14 tutors working with the students. The curriculum is supervised by Professor Cardinal Warde of electrical engineering and computer science.

During the six weeks on campus, students also participate in two competitions: a design contest reminiscent of 2.007 and Enterprise Fair, an entrepreneurial competition requiring students to prepare and present business plans--complete with marketing schemes, financial projects and cash flow worksheets--for real-life, high-tech products.

Most of the MITE2S participants were also admitted to other summer programs at prestigious colleges and universities--like Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Oxford--many of which give college credit for the summer courses, something MITE2S doesn't do.

Kateri Garcia of Albuquerque, NM, chose MITE2S over the summer program at Oxford University. Cost wasn't a factor. She could have attended either program on scholarship, but chose MIT for its emphasis on science and math.

"I wanted the exposure to technology. At my school we don't have much math and science. Oxford would be mostly humanities," said Ms. Garcia, who plans to go to medical school after college.

"We get very little sleep here. I expected it to be hard and to work by myself. But we work together with other students and I've learned more from students than teachers. Somebody's always there pushing you to try harder and do your best."

According to Mr. Reid, nearly 73 percent of MITE2S participants go on to apply for admission to MIT. Of those, nearly 94 percent are accepted and 51 percent actually enroll.

"All of them go to the best schools in the country, and 80 to 90 percent end up going into engineering and science," said Mr. Reid. "Everything that we do helps to ensure their success. Yes, they go through some dark days and some challenges. But when the students walk away from here, I want to see them feel confident in their ability to solve problems."

Tarik Ward, who still has a year of high school to complete before starting college, said the program had helped him decide on a major.

"After coming here I've really narrowed it down. I got really interested in mechanical engineering in the design contest. And, from talking to teachers and tutors, I've gotten into electrical engineering and computer science. So I've narrowed it to those three. But I'd want to get a job in the Media Lab if I come here," he said. "After college, I'm going to be an entrepreneur."

Following his MIT stint, he was headed to Washington, DC for a 10-day course in international law and diplomacy offered by the National Student Leadership Conference.

"I wanted to get a nice, broad spectrum," he said.

So much for the lazy days of summer.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 1998.

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