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Underserved College Students From South Coast Travel To East Coast for STEM Experience

Students in the UCSB-Smithsonian Scholars Program investigate amphibian biodiversity in Virginia

A group of college students from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is on the East Coast for a two-week trip that could mold their future careers. 

Kendra Saunders, who will be transferring to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks from Ventura College this fall, is among 20 STEM students – mostly first generation and low income students– in this UCSB-Smithsonian Scholars Program.

"It’s a huge eye-opening experience,” she said.

They’re traveling through Washington D.C. and Virginia through the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute where they shadow Smithsonian scientists, tour museums and do hands-on lab work.

Saunders especially enjoys the experience in the field.

“I’ve been able to realize that’s the type of stuff I want to be doing," she said. "I want to be outside.”

Saunders hopes to become a park ranger. She says while having to pay for college on her own, she seldom has opportunities like this one.

“Things like this -- where it’s essentially all paid for -- has allowed me to experience the things that I have been wanting to experience,” she said. 

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