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Kristalina Derry wants to be a physician, and challenging herself in Mazama’s STEM&M program is just another step towards that goal.

“I plan to go to college and go into the medical field so this will help me,” she said.

Derry was among 28 Mazama High School sophomores inducted on Tuesday 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. Derry chose the medicine pathway.

The ceremony, normally held in the spring, was rescheduled for Sept. 1 after schools closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony on Tuesday was still not the usual affair. Students and their families signed up for a time slot to sign the contract, pick up a Chromebook, and take photos.

Most schools are still closed because of the pandemic, and next week Mazama students will begin classes with their teachers online. Klamath County’s small rural schools will be opening to some in-person learning, and the county’s K-3 students will be allowed back in classrooms a couple of days of a week.

Laura Nickerson, Mazama teacher and STEM&M advisor, said STEM&M teachers are ready to go with their online classes.

The online platform also has encouraged Nickerson to expand her speaker panel. STEM&M students are invited to visit with guest speakers who are experts in their fields, and this year speakers will include experts from outside the area, who can now easily connect with students over Zoom.

Mazama STEM&M student Thackery Moreland sees distance learning via online classes with his teachers as an opportunity.

Moreland, who enjoys physics and math, chose the engineering pathway.

“This program is more advanced, and it will give me a big lift when I go to college,” he said.

He was joined by three friends on Tuesday — Matthew and Mark Elfbrandt, and Diego Diaz, who all chose the technology pathway. The four donned their masks and posed for a photo with Nickerson after they signed their contracts.

To apply for the STEM&M program, 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 cohort.

At their induction ceremonies, students signed contracts stating they will keep their GPAs at a 3.0 or greater, take four credits of pathway coursework while at Mazama and take nine STEM&M Oregon Tech credits. The students also earn dual high school-college credits for many of the classes they take, graduating with an estimated 30 college credits already earned.

A new group of freshman can apply each spring, starting the program sophomore year. For information about STEM&M, email coordinator Laura Nickerson at nickersonl@kcsd.k12.or.us.