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.