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Andrew Raebel had been planning to apply for Mazama’s STEM&M program since seventh grade, deciding it was the best way to meet his goal of going to college.

“I’m not sure what I want to do,” he said, “but it’ll probably be something in the sciences.”

Raebel on Wednesday was among 40 Mazama High School freshmen inducted into the school’s STEM&M program, which partners with Oregon Institute of Technology so students can study specific academic pathways in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Raebel chose the science pathway.

The students were called up in groups, shaking hands with school board members, district administrators and Oregon Tech officials, before sitting at a table in front and signing their contracts. Parents crowded into the school’s library to watch the induction ceremony and take photos.

“I am so proud of them,” said Jannette Lewis, the mother of twins Zoe and Xander Lewis. Both students signed STEM&M contracts on Wednesday. “They’ve been through a lot and have put a lot of effort into this.”

To apply, students had to submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation and an application essay. Mazama staff graded applications using a 240-point rubric. Students who scored 85 percent or higher were invited to join the STEM&M cohort. This year, of 48 applications from the freshman class, 40 students were accepted into the program.

“This is the largest group so far and is representative of the high level of achievements and dedication of this incoming class of 2022,” said Laura Nickerson, a Mazama teacher and STEM&M advisor. “It’s also the first year we have seen a large number of students transfer to Mazama for possible admission into STEM&M, many of whom were successful in gaining acceptance.”

After the ceremony, Andrew Raebel posed for photos with fellow STEM&M inductees Yuliana Cruz and Aidan Kindt.

Cruz wants to be a veterinarian someday, and the 15-year-old Mazama freshman decided the school’s intensive STEM&M program was the best way to reach her goal.

“I like science, and I applied to STEM&M hoping to see more options,” she said. “I hope to be vet one day.”

Her older sister, junior Mariana Cruz, is in her second year of STEM&M. She also takes health occupation courses at Mazama and has earned her CNA (certified nursing assistant).

“It’s very hard,” Mariana said of STEM&M curriculum.

“My advice would be to ask questions when you have questions. Don’t be shy. And don’t stress; help is always there.”

At the induction ceremony, students signed STEM&M contracts stating they will keep their GPAs at a 3.0 or greater, take four credits of pathway coursework while at Mazama and take 10 STEM&M Oregon Tech credits. Students chose a pathway (science, technology, engineering, math or medicine) and receive their STEM&M shirt.

“We outline our expectations of them, including how they will need to participate in a wide variety of outside STEM&M activities — we call them STEM&M points,” Nickerson explained. “We treat it like an athletic signing day where kids come up and sign and get their photo taken.”

There are a wide variety of perks that come with being a STEM&M student, Nickerson said. STEM&M students receive a Chromebook laptop computer for as long as they are in the program, $9,500 in scholarship funds from Oregon Tech, preferential selection into some of Oregon Tech’s competitive programs and recognition at graduation.