Student View: Audrey Cox on the Booker T. Washington Rocket Program
Bonner Leaders Program: Finding Promising Future Leaders
As a student in the General Business 2301 class at the University of Houston, I was given the opportunity to either choose a corporate case project or an ethics case project for a semester project. I chose to be involved in the “Innovate UH” corporate case project, which involved the creation and implementation of the Bonner Leaders Program for the University of Houston. One of the aspects of the project is to go into different high schools and do focus groups to gather information about what students are looking for in a program like Bonner and how we can make the program itself better.
My group’s sponsor for the project (through the University of Houston), Dr. Larry Hill, “hooked us up” with the High School for Engineering Professions program at Booker T. Washington High School on Tuesday, March 19 to do a focus group. This experience was inspiring, motivating, and intriguing, to say the least. Not only did we have the opportunity to do a focus group, the students took us on a tour and showed my group member, Jacob Leal, and I the projects they have been working on. The work that these young adults are doing is comparable to the college level.
Building rockets that are designed to reach 100,000 feet, robots designed to go on Mars, and wind turbines that can sustain an entire building during a power outage are not your typical high school projects. Their rockets are so powerful that they can only be launched in places like at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. They successfully broke the sound barrier with their rocket; this is not your typical neighborhood park rocket.
Dr. Nghia Le, Booker T. Washington High School for Engineering Professions teacher, supervises all the projects, yet is quick to say, “My students are the ones who design and build all the projects. I am here to facilitate, support their learning, and bring them resources.” The hands-on approach to learning Dr. Le is teaching his students is a model for what education should be in the future, as it promotes critical thinking skills and creativity within every student. Their work and his style were so impressive that they caught the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where Dr. Le now sits on the foundation’s Teacher Advisory Council.
As the students explained their work to us it became clear that these were the type of students that UH needs to attract to our Honors College through the Bonner Leaders program. They have learned to become great problem solvers and are building strong networks with industry with companies such as NASA, Long Horn Steel, and many others. I honestly did not know what to think of the program before arriving at the school, since I am not from the Houston area. I was astonished to see such a bright, hardworking group of students that only wish to be given more opportunities and funding to support their lofty efforts. We hope our involvement with creating the Bonner Leaders Program at UH will help support their work.
At Booker T. Washington High School in the High School for Engineering Professions program, I hoped to find a “STEM Academy” type of environment that focused on the sciences and small classes. I did not expect to see, instead, an after-school program, which requires even more commitment than a regular school environment, and a group of students that are truly passionate about the projects they are doing and are striving to learn as much as they can to improve their school as a whole. My experience at Booker T. Washington High School has not only made me see that the Bonner Leaders Program should strive to reach out to students such as these, but also makes me see that these students, along with Dr. Le’s extraordinary ideas and determination, could have a truly outstanding impact on the growth and prominence of the University of Houston in the future.
The Houston Independent School District produced a video with much more information on the program, featuring Dr. Le and his students. It’s definitely worth a look.
–Audrey Cox, Freshman, Pre-Business major in the Bauer Business Honors Program