Welcome to Biotechnology!
The San Mateo Union High School District and San Mateo High School pioneered biotechnology at the high school level which has since spread to Aragon and Mills High Schools within the district (and to schools across the country). The Biotechnology Career Pathway (BCP) started in 1988 with one class of 30 students. Since 2004, approximately 400 students at the three high schools take at least one biotechnology course each year reflecting the strength and impact the biotechnology program has on students’ college and career decisions.
The BCP consists of a four-year sequence of elective biotechnology courses addressing the standards in the Biotechnology Research and Development Pathway under the Health Science & Medical Technology Sector of California’s Career and Technical Education Curriculum. Students at Aragon, Mills and San Mateo High can enroll in Biotechnology 1 as early as their sophomore year after completing a 9th grade biological science that includes a biotechnology unit. BCP students have other opportunities for biotechnology career exploration through field trips to industry sites and college biotechnology programs, job-shadowing, biotechnology-related career projects, and mentor-guided independent research.
The BCP faculty team, science teachers, and counselors at Aragon, Mills, and San Mateo High Schools, recruit targeted students to ensure a mix of students representing all academic, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. We especially welcome the “middle 50% students”— those who may not yet have focused academic or career goals —for the program. Our biotechnology courses appeal to students because they cover high-level science concepts and techniques and provide all students an opportunity to succeed. The program’s assessment system emphasizes performance standards and skills. All work is completed at 80% proficiency or higher, or students must retrain and retest. This system sets the tone that “you can only fail if you give up.” The program’s internship opportunities are also very attractive to students and assist us in our recruitment efforts. Enrollment in the program has been largely representative of our students’ race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and language proficiency.
The BCP students benefit from partnerships with local biotechnology companies, academic and medical institutions, and have placed 1000+ students in mentored laboratory internships. In partnership with Skyline College since 2018, the students taking BCP courses at the high schools, through a dual enrollment program, may earn up to 9 college units. Our advisory committee consists of a variety of stakeholders (from feeder schools, industry, higher education, etc.) who have helped design our Biotechnology Career and Technical Education program. The committee recommends program modifications to keep up with evolving industry needs and post-secondary academic/training opportunities to align the courses with evolving industry standards and needs.