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Ceiba Students Selected for UC Berkeley Program

The freshman will go to an honors science academy for the next three summers.

Ceiba Students Selected for UC Berkeley Program

By Lori Butterworth

Three Ceiba College Prep freshmen—Juanita Alvarez, Fatima Orta, and Rebecca Guerrero—have been accepted to the prestigious SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors) Academy. These Ceiba Scholars will spend five weeks for each of the next three summers, after their 9th, 10th and 11th grade years, living on the campus of UC Berkeley and participating in a rigorous STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) academic program. 

SMASH Academy, run by the Level Playing Field Institute, is an enrichment program for high achieving, low-income high school students of color from groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The multi-step application process is similar that of a university, and includes an essay, letters of recommendation, a math test, and an interview. This year, just 60 students were accepted to the Bay Area programs out of 370 completed applications, and will participate in SMASH academy at either Stanford or UC Berkeley. Dr. Robert Schwartz, Executive Director of the Level Playing Field Institute, said, “This was, by far, the most competitive application process we have had to date. We had to turn away far too many qualified applicants.” At Ceiba, eleven students applied to the program. In addition to the three admitted, one student is currently on the waiting list and hopeful about being admitted soon.

Juanita, Fatima, and Rebecca will join their fellow SMASH Scholars this summer to begin the program. The will live in the dorms, take a full schedule of classes, eat in the dining hall, participate in recreational activities, attend weekend field trips, and get an early taste of college life. The program is free to those admitted, and students are engaged and supported throughout the school year as well as over the summer to ensure continued academic success. Level Playing Field Institute currently operates four SMASH Academy sites, at UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, and USC. The program has plans to expand nationwide over the next five years.

“We are truly excited about this opportunity for our scholars,” said Ceiba’s High School principal, Dr. Lindsay Butler. “I’m thrilled, and look forward to having these students come back and share their experiences with the rest of our school. This will make college real for them in a way that field trips and research projects cannot. It’s exciting.

 Ceiba College Prep is a public charter school of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District dedicated to preparing historically under-served students to graduate from college and succeed in life. CEIBA stands for the values that are instilled in the students: Creativity, Effort, Integrity, Benevolence and Assertiveness.

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