Almanac

News - November 23, 2011

Professor wins presidential science award

by Chris Cooney

A Canada College engineering professor and a Stanford University science program for low-income high school students were among 17 honorees selected by President Obama to be recognized for mentoring students in science and engineering.

Amelito Enriquez, who has taught and mentored at Canada College in Woodside for 17 years, said he was "thrilled" to find out he was among the winners announced by the White House on Nov. 15.

"I'm still in shock," he said from his office at Canada College.

Mr. Enriquez and the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program were among nine individuals and eight organizations from around the country named as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring for 2010 and 2011.

"Someone from the White House contacted me a week ago and told me," Mr. Enriquez said, adding that he was asked to not say anything about his award until all the winners were officially announced.

"It was so hard to keep it to myself," he said.

Nominated for the award by students and fellow staff members, Mr. Enriquez is credited with helping to develop several programs that assist students from underrepresented communities pursue degrees in science, math and engineering.

One of those is the Summer Engineering Institute, a two-week intensive program at San Francisco State University, which was developed for high school students interested in engineering, and for community college students already studying engineering who hope to transfer to a four-year university to finish their degrees, Mr. Enriquez said.

"And yes, I stay on campus with them and eat cafeteria food for two weeks," he said.

He has also teamed up with NASA to create a program called Creating Opportunities for Minorities in Engineering, Technology and Science, or COMETS.

The COMETS program gives students from two-year colleges in San Mateo County the chance to go to NASA Ames Research Center for year-round internships that prepare them to be competitive in all facets of engineering once they transfer to four-year universities.

The Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, which was started in 1988, sponsors high school students from low-income families for five-week summer internships on Stanford's campus and year-round mentoring for students interested in medical science.

Winners of the President's award receive a $25,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation and will be honored in a White House ceremony later this year.

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