SURREY — Imagine getting into Harvard and paying less than you would to go to UBC.
Welcome to Matthew Li’s reality.
At the end of the school year, the two-year Fraser Heights Integrated Math Science Academy had its first batch of graduates, and Li is just one of 29.
He’s not the only local student at an Ivy League university this month.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Western Canada, the academy is a joint venture with SFU in which students are enrolled in university chemistry courses while still in high school.
The program was created after the Ministry of Education asked schools to think outside the box and come up with ideas on how to be innovative.
“Initially, we thought it wouldn’t really be possible because it would involve curriculum compacting,” said Sheila Morissette, principal at Fraser Heights Secondary.
“Also, because we would want to be working with a university, and because we would want to become and academy and charge a small fee. But we discovered that the things we thought would be barriers weren’t barriers.”
With the first set of students now finished, Morissette said, “we’ve set the bar pretty high.”
The students didn’t just pass their university classes, they aced them.
“This year, actually, they’ve ended up with a higher class average than SFU students,” Morissette said.
The classes weren’t easy but it was all worth it, said Li. “It was busy and there was a lot of work involved. It was a big jump.”
Li said with the higher workload, he and his peers had to become more efficient. As a result, he feels more prepared for university.
Vicky Liu, another graduate, is at Yale University to study political science.
She, too, feels she upped her efficiency as a result of the program.
She has plans to become a corporate lawyer and ultimately has her eyes set on serving as a Supreme Court judge.
Both students praised their high school and university teachers.
“It was really a community of learners and teachers all together,” said Liu. “It makes this academy kind of like a family by the end of the two years.”
At the end of the program, all the students completed a capstone project – not for marks but rather to show off their passion.
Li’s group built two identical robot cars, he explained enthusiastically.
“We did an investigation – we recorded video of the turning radiuses, then we used Microsoft Excel and a bench of formulas to calculate the turning radiuses and process all our data. It was a big mix between mechanical engineering and mathematics.”
Liu also eagerly told of her team’s project.
“We made this artificial intelligence where incoming students can ask the chat bot questions and it can give answers about our program,” she explained. “We have a mascot that answers questions.”
The excitement the two students exuded, said Morisette, is the future of education.
“We want students to be learning for the sake of learning,” she continued. “Not just learning for marks.”
Though based in Fraser Heights, the program is open to students across the Surrey school district. For more information, visit Fhtsscienceacademy.ca.