Maria Servellon Accepted to Medical Workshop


By Daniela Moreno


Junior Maria Servellon (Class of 2018) was accepted to the Perry Initiative, a one-day program for young women interested in orthopedic surgery and biomechanical engineering.

Servellon is excited to be the first Pueblo applicant to be accepted to this program. Out of more than 200 applicants in Arizona, Servellon was among just 35 young women to be selected.

“I feel like being accepted has been a stepping stone for young women who are interested in this field,” she said.

On Saturday, September 17, 2016, Servellon attended the one-day program at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Pueblo science teachers Dr. Andrew Lettes and Ms. Elaine Straub accompanied her to this event.

“I really learned a lot performing six mock surgeries,” Servellon said. “I learned how to repair fracture using plates as well as spinal repairs due to scoliosis. I even had a chance to learn how to perform knee ligament reconstruction and to perform surgeon stitching.”

The application process consisted of a paragraph on why she was interested in attending this event as well as stating her short- and long-term goals in life.

“When I learned that I was accepted, it was totally unreal,” Servellon said. “I didn’t feel that I was that worthy of acceptance.”

Her former teacher, Dr. Andrew Lettes, is extremely proud of Servellon’s accomplishment and hopes many more females will follow in her footsteps in the future.

“Dr. Lettes truly encouraged and inspired me when I had him for the first time last year in Biotech 1-2, and even though I don’t have him for a teacher this year, he still inspires me because he is my ‘Science Dad’.”

Lettes said that Servellon’s acceptance into this program is a validation that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and are motivated enough.

Straub echoed Lettes’ words and added, “I’m beyond proud of what Maria Servellon has accomplished this year. I hope that she inspires more female students to follow in her footsteps.”


Servellon is open to all sciences and hopes this experience will help guide her towards her future career. She said that she would like to help in the efforts to develop more effective plastic hearts to those who are in desperate need of heart transplant.

Servellon said that she is starting to investigate colleges and universities to pursue her medical education, and she is curious about the University of California at Berkeley, which is her original home.

“This [event] exposed me to even more science, and I’ve always been very passionate about science,” she added. “There are not many women devoting their careers to sciences these days, still, but more women are needed in sciences because I believe that women are more precise and meticulous than men.”

On Oct. 18, Servellon will be recognized and honored by T.U.S.D. Superintendent H. T. Sanchez during the Governing Board meeting. Servellon has been asked to invite her family to this special occasion.

In The News: New TUSD Program Gives Biotech Students Leg Up

Pueblo High School juniors Justin Pledger, 15, and Vanessa Santacruz, 16, are among 240 Tucson Unified School District biotech students who will work closely with local employers to create career pathways and improve the district’s classroom instruction.

A new program launched Monday will help enable TUSD biotech students to take control of their future, researching career opportunities available locally and what employers are looking for.

The initiative is part of an effort to grow interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and to create career pathways with help from students themselves. The information gathered by students will be shared with the Tucson Unified School District and Pima County One-Stop to develop meaningful programming.

About 240 students from Pueblo and Tucson high schools will take part in the Biotech Pipeline effort.

Students will gather information on nearly two dozen local biotech businesses and conduct interviews to make career connections, learn what companies are looking for and how that connects with what they are learning in the classroom.

“This gives students the opportunity to explore what they want to be and take the next steps,” said Carolina Canastillo, 16, an aspiring veterinarian. “I think it will help students understand what we are learning.”

While participating students have much to gain from the program, by documenting findings the lessons learned can be expanded upon and implemented for future students with an interest in STEM.

“Students learn quite a few skills in the classroom, and through working with people in the industry they’re able to see the application of those skills,” said TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez. “The best part is it ties our kids to employers to begin the conversation about what the employers are looking for in terms of their workforce. That, of course, better informs … all of us in what we need to have in our curriculum.”

Courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star

Dr. Andrew Lettes Wins National Biotechnology Award

Dr. Mayim Bialik & Dr. Andrew Lettes

Pueblo Magnet High School science teacher Dr. Andrew Lettes received the Ron Mardigian Memorial Biotechnology Explorer Award, as part of the National Science Teachers Association (NTSA) 2012 Teacher Awards Program.

Lettes has brought biotechnology into the classroom for over ten of his eighteen years as a teacher. When TUSD’s Career and Technical Education Program decided to offer a bioscience curriculum, Lettes was one of the first teachers onboard. At the time, he was teaching an AP Biology class but only six students were enrolled. He wanted to go beyond traditional topics to get more students engaged in science, particularly those students who might not see themselves as “scientists.”

“I noticed that the students who were enthusiastic about heart dissections were even more enthusiastic about DNA fingerprinting,” Lettes recalls. “Biotechnology jobs are on the rise in Tucson and I want to prepare my students for those jobs; so I developed a Biotechnology curriculum.”

The Biotechnology Explorer Award recognizes teachers who have made biotechnology learning accessible to students and Lettes’ curriculum has done just that. Pueblo serves a predominantly low-income Hispanic population – a population that is typically underrepresented in science, engineering, and technology fields.

“This program opens up doors to careers in science that students didn’t realize had been closed to them,” Lettes noted. “Students that were not interested in upper level science classes before are now lining up to take Biotechnology.”

There are currently 105 students enrolled in the program with 140 interested in enrolling next year.

Dr. Lettes’ former students have gone on to pursue degrees in neuroscience, molecular biology, and science education. Students who have gone on to pursue degrees in other areas have said that Lettes’ class provided them with a strong foundation for their college science course requirements, and for the overall expectation of college studies.

As the recipient of the Biotechnology Explorer Award, Lettes received a $250 monetary gift, a $500 certificate for Bio-Rad products for his classroom, and a trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Indianapolis last month. Interesting tidbit: While at the conference, Lettes had the opportunity, among other things, to meet and talk science with television actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience both on TV and in real life. Bialik and Lettes both received their doctorates from UCLA.

For more information on Career and Technical Education Programs offered in TUSD, visit the Career and Technical Education Program Web site.

Courtesy of

Pueblo Biotech Featured On NSTA

Pueblo’s Biotechnology Program was featured on National Science Teacher Association’s website.

Here’s the excerpt:

Another awardee also has introduced innovations to the classroom. Andrew Lettes, a science teacher at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona, received the Ron Mardigian Memorial Biotechnology Explorer Award, sponsored by Bio-Rad Laboratories, and says he has “worked for over 10 years to bring biotechnology into the classroom.” He points out that “students must be engaged with relevant ‘hands-on’ curriculum, but the trick is to find the ‘hook’ for our student population…At Pueblo, I found the ‘hook,’ biotechnology.” He says his school’s biotechnology program “provides college preparation for our students, plus provides genuine work-based learning. Students work in science, not simply read about it during a career search on the internet.”

According to Lettes, biotechnology “not only attracts the already college-bound students, but also those who are interested in work experience. Students who have mastered the content and students who have mastered the technical skills are equally valued in my classroom. This fosters a cooperative atmosphere where all students try to do well. Truly biotechnology is the rising tide that lifts all boats.” His award also provides funding to attend NSTA’s national conference. When asked about his agenda in Indianapolis, he replies, “I plan on enjoying the workshops given by my peers. Classroom teachers have a wonderful insight on what works. I also would like to network with other educators.”

Congratulations Dr. Andrew Lettes!  You represent Pueblo with Pride!

Read entire article.

2011 HOSA Spring Leadership Conference

On Thursday and Friday, April 14 and 15, seven Pueblo Biomedical (Biotechnology) students attended the HOSA Spring Leadership Conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Tucson.

The following students placed in the top 5 of their event:

Brian Bishop: 4th Medical Math

Tricia Hindley: 4th Biotechnology

Karla Placencio: 3rd Dental Terminology

Carlos Ramirez: 1st Epidemiology

Christina Verdugo: 4th Human Growth & Development

Other students that competed were: John Woods & Gabrielle Reid

Biomedical Students at HOSA Spring Leadership Conference

This was a statewide competition and our Warriors did very well! Congratulations to all that participated.

Carlos Ramirez – Coca Cola Scholars Program Finalist

Carlos Ramirez, Class of 2011, has been selected as on of 250 finalists in the 2010-2011 Coca-Cola Scholars Program.  This is an outstanding accomplishment, considering nearly 71,000 applicants and more than 2,100 semi-finalists participated in the program.

Carlos Ramirez celebrating his award!

Carlos has been invited to attend Scholars Weekend April 14-17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  He has the opportunity to be choosen as a:

National Scholar
50 Finalists will receive awards of $5,000 per year for four years of post-secondary study for a total award of $20,000.

Regional Scholar
200 Finalists will receive awards of $2,500 per year for four years of post-secondary study for a total award of $10,000.

Each finalist will be interviewed individually during a 20-minute period by a group of three National Selection Committee members.  Following the completion of all interviews, the Selection Committee will determine the recipients of the two levels of awards.  Finalists will be notified of their status by mail.

Congratulations to Carlos on being a finalists for this distinguished award.  What a way to represent Pueblo!