The California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS) has broken another record.

CAMS' class of 2018 is sending seven students to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and three students to Olin College of Engineering — and it's an accomplishment for the books.

"CAMS normally has one or two such acceptances each year, so seven is pretty extraordinary," Chris Eftychiou, director of public information for the Long Beach Unified School District, said about the record number of students admitted to MIT.

CAMS is a mathematics and science magnet school in the LBUSD. It is in Carson, on the California State University, Dominguez Hills, campus.

The students admitted to MIT are Kevin Ho, Diana Garibay, Mario Leva, Ikenna Maduno, Kaleb Blake, Vinh Le and Shavonna Jackson.

CAMS Students: MIT, Olins 2018

From Top Row Left to Right: Kevin Ho (MIT), Diana Garibay (MIT), Mario Leva (MIT), Kaleb Blake (MIT), Ikenna Maduno (MIT), Wesley Soo-Hoo (Olin), Jerry Goss (Olin), Vinh Le (MIT), Shavonna Jackson (MIT), Odalys Benitez (Olin).

Students attending Olin are Odalys Benitez, Wesley Soo-Hoo and Jerry Goss. Mario Leva also was admitted into Olin, but has decided to attend MIT.

"It was a shock to be admitted into both of them," Leva said. "Getting into them seems like a dream come true."

His classmate, Wesley Soo-Hoo, joked that choosing between both colleges was a good problem to have as both schools have between an eight and nine percent acceptance rate.

Kevin Ho — one of the future MIT students — has worn an MIT baseball cap throughout his high school career. The hat's colors have faded and his classmates were quick to point out that although Ho might not have much to say about his accomplishments, MIT is a goal that he has been aiming at for a while, said.

"It's the school I've wanted to go to for a long time," he said.

"When decision day came, everyone was worried about Kevin," classmate Jerry Goss said, noting that Ho's first choice was always MIT as far as he knew. "But then we saw that he was still wearing the hat, so it was all good."

But for some, the acceptance is more than a personal accomplishment.


Althought Shavonna Jackson (MIT) and Odalys Benitez (Olins) have committed to separate schools, they said that they will continue to keep in touch with each other.

Odalyn Benitez said that she is the first person in her family to not just graduate from high school, but to be accepted into a college as well. For her, attending MIT is a testament to the sacrifices her family made for her benefit.

"I'm first generation, so this is a long goal that I have been wanting to complete for a while for my family," Benitez said. "I want to be a pioneer... I chose going out of my comfort zone to pursue an amazing education."

As for academics, the students have a few things in common: their schedules are filled with AP and advance courses, they participate in after school activities and clubs and they spend a lot of time studying.

"Most of us take a college class at the university here," Diana Garibay said. "We also have a two and a half hour lab once a week as well as AP physics and other AP classes."

"There's usually late days, a lot of late days, especially if you have labs," Kaleb Blake said about his workload. "You just have to stay consistent with your work."

Some of the students are a part of the school's robotics club, Nerd Herd Team 687A.

CAMS: MIT, Olins Silly Photo

The students pose for a silly photo while celebrating their well-deserved accomplishments.

"For the robotics team we put in at least 12 hours of work at school and then maybe another 30 or 40 hours at home," Soo-Hoo said. "I remember at one point I was spending at least 80 hours a week on all of my work."

But despite the hard work, the soon-to-be CAMS graduates remain humble about their accomplishments and agree that regardless of what a person pursues, confidence in oneself is key.

"The emphasis should be placed on being authentic to yourself," Ikenna Maduno said. "Concentrate on what reflects you as an individual."

"One of my colleges asked me, 'Who are you your most authentic self with?'"  Goss said in response to Maduno. "I wrote that I am my most authentic self when I am around nobody."

When asked if he was accepted to that college, he said, "Yes, that was my answer for Olin."

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at

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