Yosemite High School's Kenneth Jeffris, 16, and Michael Neff, 17, are two of eight Central Valley high school juniors who have been selected for the University of California, San Francisco's 26th Fresno's Summer Biomedical Research Internship Program.
The UCSF program received more than 80 applications from more than 36 high schools in Madera, Fresno, Kings, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare Counties and 17 students received interviews. The selections are based on academics from students that have proven to be highly motivated and high achievers who want the opportunity to discover medicine.
The program, the first of its kind in Central California, was established in 1988 to provide a quality biomedical research experience for high school students.
The program matches high school students, in the summer between their junior and senior year of high school, with faculty members who have or are developing a research project. The goal of the internship is to expose promising high school students to medical careers early on so they can better plan their academic future. It is also hoped that this experience will encourage careers in medical research.
"The faculty member, his or her staff and the interns work daily on a project for six to seven weeks," Dieu Nguyen, internship coordinator said. "Additionally, there are opportunities for field trips for the group to visit each other's project, tour local hospitals and medical facilities, listen to various speakers and participate in discussions with residents."
The internship program is designed to enhance the opportunity for students to develop an understanding of the biomedical sciences while introducing them to a possible career in the health care professions.
Jeffris, a member of Yosemite's academic decathlon, cross country and tennis teams, plays saxophone in the school band and is working on his Eagle Scout project as a member of Boy Scout Troop 316.
"Being selected to the program is a great opportunity for me to really discover what I want to do after high school and a good way to jump-start my college career," Jeffris said.
He has a 4.86 GPA and hopes to attend California Institute of Technology in Pasadena or California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, majoring in bio medical technology science after graduating from Yosemite.
Jeffris is the son of Larry and Laura Jeffris of Oakhurst.
As part of the application process, both students received letters of recommendation from their International Baccalaureate biology teacher Carol Calderwood.
"Kenny stands out in a class full of brilliant students," Calderwood said. "He is not only intelligent, he is insightful, quick and creative. He is not afraid of doing the hard work it takes to be the best. He is competitive and it works to his advantage. There will come a day when I say, 'I knew him when...'"
Neff is the son of Marc and Jacqueline Neff of Coarsegold and has a 5.0 GPA.
He is a member of the Badger soccer and tennis teams, Interact Club treasurer and is a life-long member of the California Scholarship Federation.
In her letter of recommendation, Calderwood called Neff an enthusiastic, brilliant student with a questioning nature.
"He is the student who stays after class to ask, 'What would happen if...' 'What about...?' '"Do you have more information about...?' He is a natural researcher and I think the summer internship will expose him to a career that would fit his inquisitive mind," Calderwood wrote.
"I'm looking forward to the experience," Neff said. "It's going to be hard but will hopefully give me an idea about what I want to pursue in college and help me decide if I want to enter the medical field."
Prior to Jeffris and Neff, two former Yosemite students were selected for the program -- Rachel Hernandez in 2010 and Erica Grant in 2011. Hernandez is now attending pharmaceutical school at the University of Pacific in Stockton and Grant is attending UCLA studying genetics with plans to enter medical school in the future.
Calderwood said Yosemite High has been successful getting students into the UCSF internship because the IB program is so rigorous and unique.
"How many high school students can say they can set up an experiment -- from hypothesis to conclusion -- statistically validate their results and do this several times throughout the year and across the IB curriculum? Beyond this, students must do community service and take a philosophy class outside of the school day. I'm proud to say our little high school has many students around the world now doing amazing research and work," Calderwood said.
In the last 25 years, more than 200 students have participated in the program and many of them are finishing their medical residencies, are working in the biomedicine or biotechnical industries, or are in medical school or doctorate programs at various universities.