More on Student Learning

  • January 2023: AHS Students Recognized at Harvard Model Congress Conference

    Photo collage of Aragon students at a ConferenceChaperoned by Aragon High Teachers Vicky and Jim Daniel, a group of 16 Aragon students attended the Harvard Model Congress San Francisco (HMCSF) this past weekend.  HMCSF is one of the best civic engagement conferences under the umbrella organization of Harvard Model Congress, the nation’s oldest government simulation conference run exclusively by undergraduates at Harvard College. First and foremost a teaching institution, HMC is also the most dynamic model congress simulation available to high school students.

    Over the course of the conference, HMCSF 2023 offers students the unique opportunity to dive into the issues and debates facing the United States Congress today. The approach, centered around small-group learning, inspires debate, cooperation, and legislation — while also forcing students to expand their own perspectives and to understand the issues at hand in a new, more nuanced way.
    322 students from 18 schools from all over the country and Honduras were present. These students made up 11 groups of House and Senate Committees as well as Special Programs.

    At the closing ceremonies, each of those committees and programs recognized one outstanding delegate and one to three honorable mentions. Aragon won four of those awards, a truly impressive accomplishment:

    • Leo Levitt: Best Delegate Senate Environment and Public Works
    • Enya Yuan: Best Delegate Central Intelligence Agency
    • Eesha Gupta: Honorable Mention Presidential Cabinet
    • Geneva Williams: Honorable Mention Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

    Learn more about HMCSF.

    Art and Animals: Student Field Trip to Oakland ZooThree art students at the Oakland Zoo  


    The Zoetic Tapestry Project recently sponsored a field trip to the Oakland Zoo for San Mateo High School CTE Media Arts & Art Certificate students . Students learned about behind-the-scenes from Zookeeper and Educator Eunice Hui, took photos and sketched animals in preparation for a zoo-themed art exhibit scheduled for March - May 2023 at the San Mateo Central Park Kohl Pumphouse. SMHS Career Coordinator Nancy Kane organized the field trip. 


    SMHS Teachers Jamie Fanton, Cindy Hodges and Julie Stock are once again working with the Zoetic Tapestry Project, to coordinate this exhibit which will take several months to prepare.  Back in the Spring of 2022,  art students had a professional artist experience with the Honey Bee Exhibit, also at the Kohl Pumphouse.


    Over several months, students created artwork individually and as teams; they prepared the artwork for display, wrote statements, displayed and sold artwork as well as interacted with the public attending the gallery. The professional experience was made possible by the SMHS art teachers and the Zoetic Tapestry Project.  


    SMUHSD Students Gain Valuable Experience with US Geological Survey through Step Up Program

    Photo collage of staff and students working at the US Geological Survey San Mateo Union High School District Vocation Specialist Julia Payne participated in a nationwide panel discussion with teachers and scientists for the US Geological Survey (USGS) about their Step Up Program in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The panel discussion took place October  27. 

    Across the nation, USGS collaborates with school districts and other educational institutions that have work transition programs for students (mostly ages 18–22) with cognitive and other disabilities. It’s known as STEP-UP (Secondary Transition to Employment Program - USGS Partnership).

    Burlingame High Teacher Jared Abbott serves as job coach for three students participating in the Step-Up program.  SMUHSD has had some really great partnerships with various USGS scientists since 2017. Students in our programs have worked on a wide variety of projects both on the Menlo Park campus, and remotely. Students have done tasks like data entry, digitizing and organizing documents, data analysis, cataloging rock samples, and analyzing soil samples. 

    Aragon High Students Win NASA TechRise Student Challenge


    In January 2022, NASA selected 57 winning teams out of over 600 entries in its inaugural nationwide TechRise Student Challenge designed to attract, engage, and prepare future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professionals.

    A team of six from Aragon’s Space Club were selected as one of the winning teams! They were awarded $1,500 to spend on building the experiment.  Winning teams gain real world STEM experience by building experiments that autonomously operate and collect data from the edge of space aboard a suborbital rocket or a high-altitude balloon.

    Aragon High Teacher Greg Moretti is the Space Club’s Advisor and the six students are: Jake Sakamoto, Junior; Harish Selvakumar, Senior; Alex Ding, Junior; Rachel Ma, Junior; Nicole Jin, Junior; and Jorell Sakamoto, Junior.

    Their winning experimental design is almost complete and they will be mailing it to Blue Origin in a couple of weeks. The design will be launched to space on a Blue Origin "New Shepard" rocket in early 2023.

    The team was provided a 4"x4"x8" Flight Box that has to contain their entire experiment, and they've used a 3D printer to fabricate the frame that the experiment is mounted to. They are using a Metro microcontroller board that is programmed to activate the experiment once the Blue Origin spacecraft hits microgravity and sends a signal to the Flight Box. They've got cameras and sensors mounted inside the box that will record data, and motors that will be activated by the microcontroller to pump the hydrogen peroxide into the reaction chamber to begin the experiment.  They've had to overcome many many design and engineering issues that were encountered along the way, and have worked in close consultation with NASA engineers to ensure they will have a successful mission in space! 

    It's almost done and crunch time is now with a final-final deadline of October 31, 2022 when their project has to be shipped.

    Learn more about Aragon's winning experiment: Observing Chemical Reactions in Microgravity 

    Read the press release for more information about the contest.

    SMUHSD Students Attend Gilead Sciences STEM Event

    Students on a field trip at Gilead SciencesOn October 12, more than 100 students from Aragon, San Mateo and Mills High Schools were invited to attend Gilead’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Career Event at their company headquarters in Foster City. 


    The event is designed for high school students of all backgrounds interested in exploring science, technology, engineering, and math, or who would like to know more about what it is like to work at a scientific company. Students had the opportunity to interact with STEM industry professionals and leaders at Gilead, explore company laboratories, as well as learn about available career paths and ways to make a difference with their passion for STEM.


    Gilead is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that works to address unmet medical needs for people with life-threatening diseases around the world. We work together to discover, develop, and commercialize innovative medicines in therapeutic areas that include HIV/AIDS, liver diseases, cancer, inflammation, and respiratory diseases.


    SMUHSD Career Coordinators Nancy Kane (SMHS), Nina Woolsey (MHS) and Queenie Hua (AHS) accompanied the students along with chaperones.

    San Mateo High's Summer Internship Program Prepares Students for Careers in BioTech 

    In 1988 SMUHSD Teacher Ellyn Daugherty designed and implemented the Biotechnology Career Pathway program, working closely with its Biotech Industry-Education Advisory Committee.  SMHS teacher Jimmy Ikeda became the lead teacher of the program in 2003 and took over the internship program in 2008.

    Since it was established, the internship program has continually prepared students for research and manufacturing positions in academic and industrial biotechnology laboratories.  The concepts and skills that are developed in the Biotechnology Internship program help prepare students for post-secondary courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, molecular and cell biology, genetics and immunology. After completing the Biotechnology Internship, many students continue into employment as entry-level lab technicians or research assistants or into research fellowships.

    This Summer, the following organizations offered internships to 16 San Mateo High and two Aragon High students:

    • Vitalant Research Institute

    • Bay Area Bioscience Educational Community (BABEC)

    • Segan Industries

    • Kezar Life Sciences

    • Target Discovery Inc. 

    In addition to the above companies and organizations, the following companies are also considered industry partners and have a long history of support of the BioTech program at San Mateo High:

    • Day One Pharmaceuticals

    • LabCorp Early Development Laboratories

    • International Immunodiagnostics


    On July 28, the students presented their internship experiences to an audience of parents, internship representatives and District staff. Certificates were presented to the participating companies.

    Presenting students and internship organization

    • Claire Kuziemko and Pragya Prakash, Segan Industries Inc

    • Bonnie Chan and Brianna Wong, Target Discovery Inc.

    • Emily Du and Kai’i Smith, Vitalant Research institute

    • Anya Gurudatt, Kezar Life Sciences

    • Rebecca Buss, Kezar Life Sciences

    • Adwita Sinha and Katie Hong, Bay Area Bioscience Education Community


    About the BioTech Career Pathway Program

    The BioTech Career Pathway Program is a dynamic program that evolves and changes as the needs of students, biotech industry, and the economy changes. The popularity of the program has allowed the pathway to grow into a four-year "major" in Biotechnology at the high school. Students throughout San Mateo Union High School District can take advantage of the courses and industry internship experiences.



    Interested in learning more or partnering with SMHS to offer an internship? Contact Jimmy Ikeda at