2 Valley Youths Win Trips to Space Camp

For two budding scientists from the northeast Valley, the countdown has begun to May 15, the day they and their parents will take off on a free trip to U.S. Parent/Child Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

The students, Lorena Guzman of Langdon Avenue Elementary School in North Hills and Freddie Soliz of Sylmar Elementary School, earned the trips for creating two of the top projects in a science fair sponsored by the LA's BEST after-school enrichment program.

"They told us you get to do things that astronauts do, like eat astronaut food and maybe see the space shuttle," said Lorena, whose winning project examined the sources, types and uses of electricity. "It's going to be like astronaut weekend."

LA's BEST, which stands for Better Educated Students of Tomorrow, was established in 1988 and provides free after-school activities at 24 LAUSD elementary schools. LA's BEST schools are located in neighborhoods identified as being most vulnerable to gangs, drugs and crime.

The top science students from all 24 schools competed last week in downtown Los Angeles at an event hosted by the competition's corporate sponsors, Delta Air Lines, Wells Fargo Bank, the Plum Foundation and Times Mirror Corp., which publishes the Los Angeles Times.

Lorena, 10, and Freddie, 9, were among 10 first-place winners who were awarded trips. The runners-up received trips to Astrocamp in Idyllwild, officials said.

"It was like Oscar night--the spotlight was definitely on the kids," said Gia Pulido," LA's BEST coordinator at Langdon. "It was [Lorena's] presentation that got everyone. She improvised, she made jokes, she was fabulous."

Freddie also based his project on electricity.

"It shows how you can take a battery and a wire and a nail and they come together and make a magnet," he explained.

"When they called his name as a winner, I was so proud of him," said Freddie Soliz, who will accompany his son to camp. "I'm just starting to come down to Earth now."

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