Jamar Williams is 17, but he’s already ahead of the rest of the class. Fascinated with computers at an early age, he knew what he wanted to be — a computer programmer. His experiences at San Diego High School, including participation in the SciTech program, and the leadership skills and scholarship he gained through the Junior ROTC program kept him on that path.
Williams will be a freshman at the University of San Diego this fall, and he has already chosen computer science as his major. He will be involved with the Army’s division of the San Diego ROTC program (at San Diego State). He enrolled in six classes this fall and plans to be active in Student Support Services and Lead@USD. And, true to his preparedness, Williams is already adjusting well to college.
On June 16, one day after his high school graduation ceremony, Williams was at USD to begin a math-based research project under the direction of USD math professor Jane Friedman through the university’s Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience program.
PURE, started by science faculty members, increases the interest, retention and achievement of under-represented students through their involvement in a scientific research project. PURE identifies high school students already accepted by USD for the fall and it allows them to spend the summer prior to their freshman year conducting research.
Williams, Friedman’s first PURE program student, has performed well.
“I am impressed with his intelligence and his ability to work independently. He had never programmed a computer before and he is now writing matlab code,” Friedman said, referring to a computing language.
Williams said he’s happy with the progress he’s made so far. “The project is going really well, and I’m almost done with it, but it’s been kind of challenging, too, because I had to work with a (computer) program I’d never used before. I had to learn it in order to do the project. My objective is to learn as much math as I can because it’s the program that all computer science majors use. If I can get good enough at it, I’ll be a step ahead of everyone else.”
Friedman said she expects Williams to present the finished product at USD’s 2010 Creative Collaborations event. Another perk of the PURE program is the $2,500 stipend Williams receives for his work on the project. Williams’ time on campus should help ease his transition from high school to college.
“It’s helped me a lot (being here early), with the math especially, but being on campus now has given me the chance to find my classes and determine how much time it’ll take me to get to the next one on time,” Williams said. He’s met all of the computer science and math professors this summer and is developing relationships that he knows will be strengthened by office visits during the semester. Williams knows, too, that getting a jump on college shows his eagerness to learn and succeed.
“It’s summer now, but everyone on campus here is a serious student,” he said. “They’re the ones who really want to get good grades, finish college, get good jobs and to really enjoy what they’re doing.”
— Ryan T. Blystone