Biotechnology, or Biotech, is a course that students in the Academy of Science and Medicine must take. The Academy is an organization for aspiring students particular to Crescenta Valley High School, founded and led by microbiologist and teacher Orenda Tuason. All students who join are required to take the class during the school year. However, many students don’t have the time or space in their schedules to take it during the year, and instead, take it during the summer.
Most students usually only take one summer class, as taking even only one is difficult due to the cramming of an entire year’s worth of lessons and information into five weeks. This makes the courses very rigorous, with most classes having at least one test a day. Furthermore, summer classes usually go through 1-2 chapters a day, and students are expected to keep up.
Many students in Biotech (taught by Tuason), however, take it on top of another class. Because Biotech is an afternoon class while all other classes take place in the morning, students are allowed to take it along with one morning class. Jiyoun Roh, an incoming sophomore, is taking Biotech along with Chemistry, a summer course known for its difficulty, this year. “I honestly didn’t think that it would this difficult to keep up with both classes,” Roh said. “I’m managing but it’s definitely not easy. Both classes are rigorous and a lot goes on in one day, both during and after school ends.”
Students taking the course aren’t the only ones in the classroom. Every year, Tuason gives her previous Biotech students (who are still currently in high school), the opportunity to volunteer and help out in the classroom. Although it isn’t a paid job, a dozen students show up daily to assist Tuason, as well as the students, with labs, lessons, and more. Some students even come back from college to talk and give advice to Tuason’s current students. During the first week, for example, a now U.C. Irvine freshman visited to give a presentation about her experience in the Academy and how it led her to realizing her dream: becoming a Biomedical Engineer.
“It definitely isn’t easy,” Roh said again. “But I’m definitely having fun. Biotech is such a rewarding class. I learn and gain so much from it. Like the presentations her older students give are so helpful and even almost comforting. They make me feel assured that I’ll find what I want to do too, hopefully with the help of Academy.” Although Biotechnology is mandatory, there is no doubt that everyone involved leaves without regrets.