Latino STEM Alliance (LSA) partners with schools, private industry, community groups, and academia to bring STEM to underserved youth who would otherwise not have such an opportunity.
LSA brings existing and successful national programs to our partner schools and community groups and deliver the activities to their youth at their facility. The goal is to enable underserved youth to experience hands-on STEM enrichment activities along with relevant role-models in order to inspire them to consider STEM related careers.
50% of all engineers in the US today will retire in the next 5-15 years. The dire need to fix the STEM pipeline issue is being pushed top down by the White House and billions of Federal dollars are being distributed at the State level for local investments. Pushing equally as strong are most large Corporations, particularly those in STEM related industries, whose business depends heavily on the availability of talent to produce the next line of innovative products and services. Many of these organizations are developing in-house Educational Outreach programs as well as sponsoring activities and events that promote STEM.
Even still, with all these resources and money being thrown at the problem, we are not graduating the number of STEM professionals needed to fill the void being left by the baby boomers. Part of the reason why is that investments have been pointed towards the same groups (high achieving students and districts) rather than exploring alternative sources (at risk students).
Per the Pew Research Center, “the Latino population, already the nation’s largest minority group, will triple in size and will account for most of the nation’s population growth from 2005 through 2050. Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population in 2050, compared with 14% in 2005.” The Pew Institute estimates that 41% of Latino adults ages 20 and older are dropouts, compared to 23% and 14% for Black and White adults respectively. In the particular case of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, experts agree on three main gaps related to youth’s ability to pursue STEM careers:
- The achievement gap: Only 25% of Latino students are reaching Math proficiency and higher on MCAS tests compared to 74% for Asian and 58% for non-Latino white students. Only 13% of Latino students are reaching proficiency or higher for the Science, Technology and Engineering test.*
- The opportunity gap: Even for proficient students, the availability of resources to pursue STEM careers is dwindling. Furthermore, affluent students have greater access to advanced placement courses (because their schools offer them), which is usually a requirement for colleges to accept applicants into a STEM program.
- The inspiration gap: Perhaps the biggest obstacle to reducing the shortage of STEM professionals is a simple lack of interest of our youth. The current education system alone is not getting students excited about these fields. Even with the State’s rich academic and corporate presence in these fields, students in Massachusetts traditionally report a interest in studying STEM careers in college at lower rate than the national average.*
Meeting the Challenge
Our goal is simple: to increase the number of underrepresented minorities that pursue and attain STEM degrees. The opportunity is unique: high demand for STEM professionals, large supply of eager young minds. Attacking the problem, however, is much more complex. Our plan follows a high-touch, multi-directional approach that includes academic support, parental buy-in, exposure to STEM based extracurricular activities, and development of student self esteem and can-do attitude via role models that students can relate with on a deep and culturally relevant level.
LSA’s work is intensive, yet very scalable and cost effective since we leverage the community roots of existing organizations and programs are delivered at their location. LSA funnels resources to the communities that need them the most. Resources may be programmatic, human, and/or financial. From a programmatic perspective, we ensure that best practice programs are being implemented in the communities we serve. From a human capital standpoint, we provide community partners with training, volunteers (STEM professionals & students), and facilitate STEM activities. Lastly, from a financial standpoint, we funnel money towards STEM programs, partner on grant proposals, and highlight funding opportunities for our partners even when LSA cannot participate – as long as the students win, then LSA wins.
Latino STEM Alliance… an enabler for collaboration!
LSA facilitates and manages partnerships so that it is easy for organizations to collaborate. Many institutions in underserved neighborhoods do not have the resources to implement comprehensive STEM programs. They also lack the time and/or contacts needed to build sustainable partnerships with academia & industry. On the other hand, most businesses, do not have dedicated staff to coordinate consistent STEM outreach engagements. And when they do, they are overwhelmed because there may be one or two individuals responsible for managing all community outreach activities. HigherEd institutions face similar challenges. LSA makes it very easy to invest in the STEM pipeline, which ultimately translates into improving the lives of economically underserved children. Latino STEM Alliance embraces all students regardless of their ethnic background.
DEMAND: Latino STEM Alliance is an active participant in the various conversations happening at the state & federal level regarding the importance of STEM education and best practices for increasing the pipeline. We’re continuously doing research, talking to stakeholders, and keeping our ear to the ground. We learn about free resources, curriculums, workshops, funding sources, etc. We transfer that knowledge to our partners and alongside them identify opportunities to enhance existing programs or create new ones within their organization. Programs can be one time, span several weeks or run year-round, yet they all deliver a meaningful and long-lasting experience for students. That partner’s calendar of events, including a detailed description of what’s necessary to execute, is compiled by LSA into a master catalog of outreach opportunities that outlines the needs of multiple community partners.
SUPPLY: Latino STEM Alliance presents the outreach catalog to corporate partners and universities. We leverage their collective strength as a means of removing barriers that may stand in the way of a program’s execution. Who has science kits to loan or donate? Who can give a lab tour? Who can host a job shadow day? etc. In many cases, little to no financial investment is needed and the primary request is for volunteers. Some engagements will be one time, while others will require a multi-week commitment. In all cases, students’ STEM exposure will be consistent, even if it requires volunteers from different partners each week. LSA coordinates when, where, what, and how. We match volunteers based on skill sets, schedules, and location. All materials are prepared ahead of time by LSA and the community partner. We train volunteers on whatever they will be doing and on how to deliver a positive and inspirational message to students. We document volunteer hours and quarterly report back to the sponsor (company or university) including pictures of the outreach efforts in the field. We document and deliver personal testimonials from students to sponsors on the impact of their investment.