Del Vallejo Leadership & STEAM Academy tour CNAS

RIVERSIDE, CA - Middle school students and teachers from Del Vallejo Leadership & STEAM Academy visited the UC Riverside College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) last week, touring CNAS facilities, exploring laboratories, and interacting with current CNAS faculty and students.

Located in San Bernardino, CA, Del Vallejo Leadership & STEAM Academy is home to 650 6th-8th graders, and strives to shape students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds into cutting-edge leaders and promote global competitiveness through social and emotional growth development, teamwork, collaboration, and creativity to engage with and enhance learning. The school has 40 teachers and 40 staff members, and nearly 20% of DVLSA students are English language learners.

Martinique Pickett, and 8th grade teacher at DVLSA, said that campus tours are instrumental in helping students familiarize themselves with educational opportunities after high school. "Visits to CNAS really give a better idea of what field students may want to pursue as a college student and what direction they may want to go when it comes to continuing education," she said.

Del Vallejo Middle School CNAS Presentation Connie Nugent

DVLSA students were greeting upon arrival by Connie Nugent, CNAS Dean of Student Affairs, who introduced them to CNAS' mission, goals and resources. Students were then taken on a tour of CNAS buildings and facilities by Science Ambassadors, current CNAS students who assist the college during official functions. Science Ambassadors are highly involved in activities outside of the classroom, including undergraduate research, student life and athletics, making them the perfect resource for prospective students considering UC Riverside. 

"Offering students the opportunity to explore CNAS facilities brings significant advantages to their educational journey, especially considering the challenge of navigating the multitude of potential career paths within the realm of science," said Karanvir Singh '24, a fourth year Biology major. "Exposure to cutting edge-research and state-of-the-art facilities acts as a compelling source of inspiration, igniting curiosity and nurturing and early passion for STEM subjects."

Singh believes bringing prospective students to CNAS also helps them appreciate the breadth of academic opportunities available within the college. "These visits play a pivotal role in helping students explore various scientific disciplines, aiding them in making informed decisions about their future academic trajectories," explained Singh. "Interactions with researchers and professionals during these visits can offer middle school students valuable role models and mentors, unveiling the exciting possibilities within the realm of science." 

During their tour, DVLSA students visited Professor Katherine Borkovich's laboratory. The CNAS Divisional Dean of Life Sciences and a member of the Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology, Professor Borkovich's research interests include heterotrimetric G proteins, systems biology, and fusarium oxysporum pathogenesis.

"Most middle school students have never seen the inside of a research laboratory, nor met undergraduate or graduate student researchers in action," said Professor Borkovich. "Visiting the facility makes it real and more accessible as a possible future place for these students to perform their own research projects."

Since over half of CNAS undergraduates participate in research outside of their coursework, Professor Borkovich believes the opportunity to introduce prospective students to CNAS' research capabilities is particularly impactful.

Del Vallejo Middle School CNAS Student Panel

"Due to the breadth of research fields represented in CNAS, our undergraduates have a wide array of choices in terms of faculty laboratories for research projects," explained Professor Bokovich. "In addition, students may earn course credit or receive a stipend or fellowship for their research, while at the same time learning important techniques and concepts for their future careers. It is truly a win-win.

After touring CNAS, DVLSA students had the opportunity to attend a panel of current CNAS students, who spoke about their experiences at the college and offered advice to the students as they begin thinking about college. Singh, one of the student panelists, said he appreciated the enthusiasm exhibited by DVLSA students.

"Working with the Del Vallejo students was a truly rewarding experience, with the highlight being their enthusiasm during the tour, particularly at the geology displays," said Singh. "The students in my group displayed a genuine curiosity and eagerness to seeking more information about the Gomphothere and mineral exhibits.

Ms. Pickett praised the experience as being highly beneficial for DVLSA students. "After the visit, I had several students tell me they were actually really excited about going to college," she said. "Touring the CNAS facilities gave them a better understanding of what the science field of studies entails, especially for those who will be first generation college students."

For his part, Singh believes the tour succeeded in not only introducing DVLSA students to CNAS and UC Riverside, but to all of the possibilities STEM fields hold. "These experiences make science more accessible, relatable, and enjoyable for younger students."

For more information about CNAS campus tours, contact CNAS Communications at


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