Students in Ajinoam Morton’s project-based research design class at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa are learning everything from time management and budgeting, for when they are in college, to what they might want to pursue for a career.
Morton, who also is the Spanish facilitator at New Tech, said the year-long class is aimed at seniors to help them transition from high school to college life. It also throws in a passion project that lets students explore the career they want to pursue after college. Morton also helps students fill out their financial aid forms and apply for college and scholarships.
In years past, students have attained a 100 percent acceptance rate to colleges and universities and this year Morton said they are on track to achieve the same.
Morton has helped students pair with professionals in the community and beyond for internships.
“I’m trying to help them build those relationships with professionals in the community. Some of the students that I have actually have careers that are not available in our community, so I even went as far as doing virtual internships,” Morton said.
One student has a virtual internship with a naval architect.
Morton added that she wants the students to figure out real-world problems in the fields they want to go into so they can see the challenges and issues out there and seeing the impact they could make, or what new ideas they could bring to the professionals already in that career.
Students will receive a cord at graduation if they present their projects at an April symposium, have a certain GPA by the fifth sixth-week grading period and have a senior portfolio.
Jaylyn Guzman, an 18-year-old senior, wants to go into business and plans to attend Angelo State University. She has worked with the Small Business Development Center which made her aware of things she wasn’t sure of or didn’t know and answered her questions.
Guzman is currently finishing her capstone project of a website that will help people who want to start their own business. She said the class has helped her a lot.
“It just drives me, pushes me to do better in my life,” Guzman said.
She added that she will be the first in her family to graduate college and she wants to set an example for her younger brother and niece to let them know that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything.
Saray Navarrete, a 17-year-old senior wants to create a device that is as portable as an inhaler, but as strong as a breathing treatment.
Navarrete, who wants to become a surgeon, said the class has helped her network with the college she wants to attend, which is Texas Tech University, and people in her desired field.
After doing an internship in orthopedics, Navarrete said she realized the field wasn’t for her and contacted the dean of the Texas Tech honors college to ask him to be her mentor.
She said the experience has helped her gain confidence to network outside of Odessa and Midland.
“I will be doing an internship with a surgeon in El Paso,” who is part of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Navarrete said.
Seventeen-year-old senior Yishai Benavides came into Morton’s class as a dedicated film student, but he has since decided to become an electrical engineer who is involved in film on the side.
His project will be a documentary about the car culture in Odessa. Benavides added that he plans to make another documentary about a group that is restoring a car.
He has already been accepted to the University of Texas at Arlington, but plans to spend a year at Odessa College before leaving.
Jaden Gaddis, a 17-year-old senior, said probably one of the biggest things he’s taken away from the course is that other high school students he knows haven’t applied for college or scholarships, which is part of the grade for Morton’s class.
Gaddis has a virtual internship with a naval architect who is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth.
Once a week, he talks to her on the phone about what she does on a daily basis and some of the projects she’s been involved in. “She kind of helped me clarify what I wanted to be,” Gaddis said.
He plans to attend the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and transfer to Texas A&M in Galveston.
While not assigned to Morton’s class, 18-year-old senior Jasmine Lopez said Morton has helped her with applying to colleges and for financial aid.
Lopez said she is deciding between Texas Tech University and UTPB and plans to major in biology major with the intention of going pre-med. She added that she will graduate with an associate degree before she graduates from high school.