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COE Undergrads Awarded PURS Scholarships

Arely Cervantes and Elizabeth Ayoko during the BOUNCE Summer Program
Arely Cervantes (left) and Elizabeth Ayoko take time out during the BOUNCE Summer Program at the UH College of Education on July 15, 2013.

Elizabeth Ayoko (B.S. in Health Promotion) and Arely Cervantes (B.S. in Health and Human Development & Family Studies) are the 2013 recipients of the Provost's Undergraduate Research Scholarship (PURS). Both students present their research at the Spring and Fall 2013 Academic Showcases in the Rockwell Pavilion at the UH M.D. Anderson Library.

Ayoko's research investigated The Use of Social Media to Achieve Weight Loss Goals. This study aims to combat the obesity epidemic by promoting the use of social media health-related websites such as Myfitnesspal.com. Hispanic mothers between the ages of 42-45 who all had a BMI that classified them as being overweight or obese were the subjects of the study. A preliminary study was done for 6 weeks and a trend was found that showed that the more food logs that each person completed per week the more weight was lost.

Elizabeth Ayoko at the UH Spring Academic Showcase at Rockwell Pavilion in April 2013.
Elizabeth Ayoko describes her Research at the UH Spring Academic Showcase at Rockwell Pavilion in April 2013.

Ayoko was thankful to her professors whose words of encouragement in and out of class kept her going.  "I was very excited when I received the news that I had won the Provost Undergraduate Scholarship," said Ayoko.  "My professors are the ones who urged me to apply for the scholarship and they were a constant source of encouragement for me throughout the whole process."

Cervantes' project entitled Comparing the Effectiveness of Social Media Applications verses Weekly Journaling to Track Nutrition and Exercise Goals in Hispanic Mothers, aims to contest obesity by helping make a transition to a healthier lifestyle through journaling and social media such as Facebook.  She will expand on Ayoko's findings by comparing journaling, social media (Facebook) and Ayoko's data from Myfitnesspal.com.

Cervantes always had plans for college, but never thought she would be involved in research.  The PURS award provides her not only with support for tuition, but with lifelong experiences. "I am thankful and blessed to have this wonderful opportunity and am looking forward to working on this research project," said Cervates. "Being a first-generation minority college student has been a struggle in many aspects of my life, but opportunities for growth like these have opened many doors."

Ayoko and Cervantes were mentored by Dr. Norma Olvera, professor of Health Education and are active volunteers for the College of Education's  BOUNCE Program whose mission is to empower Hispanic and African American girls between the ages of 9-14 and their families to adopt a healthy lifestyle by incorporating healthy food choices, daily exercise, and positive self-esteem in a supportive environment.

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Scholarship (PURS) program provides talented UH juniors and seniors with the opportunity to participate in a semester-long research project under the direction of a UH faculty mentor.