Students from the Long Beach Unified School District are getting a close-up view of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (TGPLB) tomorrow, Friday.

"The point is to bring kids together who are interested in studying fields like engineering," Chris Esslinger, director of communications for the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said. "The trip is partially STEM-based."

STEM means science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and for the first time ever, the school district is partnering with the TGPLB to introduce select students to the more technical side of the races.

A total of 100 students selected from different high schools throughout the district will meet at the Convention Center tomorrow to view vintage and modern race cars and learn all about the city's Grand Prix history.

"The race is the race, and it's a lot of fun," Peter Davis, assistant superintendent at LBUSD, said. "But there's all of these other businesses and jobs that actually make these races happen."

Science and engineering classes are a big part of LBUSD's linked-learning pathway programs. McBride, Cabrillo, Jordan and Poly high schools all offer curriculum for students who are interested in pursuing careers in various STEM fields.

But this field trip is about more than STEM learning, Davis added. 

Avalon High School offers pathway programs that emphasize hospitality and tourism, which is important because Catalina Island is a hub for tourists looking to take a weekend — or a day trip — away from the mainland.

Browning High School (located at 2180 Obispo Ave., bordering Signal Hill) opened its doors last year to students also interested in hospitality and tourism programs. That addition to the district was significant because the tourism industry is just as important to Long Beach as the sciences, Davis said.

"We're looking for ways to broaden their (the students') scope about what goes into creating an event like the Grand Prix," he said. "We want them to be interested in the car racing, but we also want them to understand that it takes an entire team to make it happen."

And that team is the graphic designers, the advertisers and the mechanics, to name a few. Long Beach businesses also play a large part in making the event a success, he added.

Construction crews spent weeks turning Shoreline Drive into a race course and news outlets and organizations — like The Grunion Gazette — have been getting involved and spreading the word.

The restaurants and shops surrounding the track can't be left out, because event-goers need food for fuel and the shops are open to residents and tourists throughout the Grand Prix weekend.

In short, Davis said that he hopes the field trip will give the students a broader perspective on their studies and the very different careers they can choose to pursue after high school.

"We're excited for this opportunity to work with the Grand Prix because it's fun, but a lot of hard work goes into it," he said. "Our hope is that we can do something like this more often with even more students."

The field trip also is sponsored in part by Banc of California. Davis added that having a financial institution involved shows the students that there's still a need for the high schoolers to pursue business and finance fields.

According to Davis, at the end of the day, it's all a part of academic growth.

"If students have to take four years of math, then why can't one of those classes be accounting and finance instead of calculus," he asked. "If we can place these kids in more real-life work situations, then maybe that will play a part in expanding our academic systems."

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place this weekend from Friday, April 13 through Sunday, April 15 downtown.

For more information and tickets, go to www.gplb.com.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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