It’s been said that children are natural scientists. Because they’re curious about everything and the world is still new to them, they naturally ask questions about their environment, often wondering about and then acting on “what-if” speculations.
Holding on to STEM
Many college students start school majoring in a science or other STEM disciplines, but according to 2011 data from the University of California at Los Angeles, up to 60% switch to a non-STEM major.
Of students that started out majoring in STEM in 2004 who then went on to graduate with a STEM degree, only 18% were black. That compares with 22% of Latino students; 33% of white students; and 42% of Asian American students, according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.
In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, an important point is made; while there’s been a lot of emphasis on STEM, there has been less emphasis on preparing students to succeed in such fields.
Although it is true that well-prepared students also change from STEM to non-STEM majors, for black and Latino students—most of whom are poorly prepared to take on rigorous college math and science courses—the lack of preparation itself seems critical.
Academic Program Boosts Performance
To improve these students’ chances of success, academic programs have been developed that target underrepresented STEM students. One is the South Central Scholars Summer Academy, part of a holistic college access program in Southern California.
Started in 2012, the seven-week summer program is taught by University of Southern California faculty on the USC campus. It offers college-level courses in Calculus, Pre-calculus, and English, along with professional development and mentoring. Other available courses include Chemistry, Computer Science, and Quantitative Reasoning.
“We’re really trying to bridge this gap between underperforming high schools and elite colleges,” said Joey Shanahan, Executive Director of South Central Scholars.
On its website, South Central Scholars includes the following stats: 72% of students who attended the Summer Academy from 2012 to 2015 have graduated in STEM fields or are in college and on track to graduate; 98% of its scholars graduate in six years.
South Central Scholars provides financial support, mentoring, career counseling, and more, in addition to the summer program.
For more information, visit South Central Scholars.