HACIENDA HEIGHTS - After schlepping their son to science classes in Fullerton, Ron Chong and his wife Judy wanted to give local students the chance to experience a hands-on, science enrichment program in their own backyard.
So the Chongs teamed up with several other parents nearly 30 years ago to open a Youth Science Center branch in a Wedgeworth Elementary School classroom.
Today, the Hacienda Heights-based nonprofit dedicated to improving math and science education teaches some 3,000 students a year, and is gearing up to launch scientific expeditions for kids at the scenic Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. The program will become the education component of the soon-to-be-built San Gabriel River Discovery Center.
"It's not necessarily to make kids go into science, but that's a spin-off," Chong, chairman of the Youth Science Center, said of the organization. "It really is to make them better prepared to function in the real world, to make educated decisions about what's going on, using their know-how about science so they're better able to make choices rather than be fooled by things."
The Youth Science Center was founded in Fullerton in 1962 but the original center closed in the early nineties, ultimately leaving only the Hacienda Heights facility, he said.
The organization was named 2011 nonprofit of the year by the Regional Chamber of Commerce San Gabriel Valley.
From allowing children to hold the center's snakes to learning crime scene investigation techniques such as fingerprinting, the center offers activities, resources and field trips not usually offered in public schools, Chong said.
The Youth Science Center is best known for its summer programming, which offers more than 100 classes for students. But it also works with several area school districts to do after-school programs about topics such as solar panels and watersheds.
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