In an effort to better familiarize low income students with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, College of the Canyons has partnered with the organizations GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Programs) and STAR Education Inc. to host a group of 100 high school sophomores for a day of hands-on activities and conversations with COC instructors and students.
“The goal is to inspire these students to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM,” said Teresa Ciardi, program coordinator for astronomy & physical science programs at the college.
“Because of poverty and a lack of family members who have attended college, these students often question their ability to pursue degrees in science after high school,” added Ciardi.
This reality is what made Eric Lara, director of the college’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program, Ciardi’s logical partner-in-crime for Friday’s event.
In addition to his work with the MESA department, Lara and his students founded the on-campus Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) club to help serve the growing demographic of first-generation Latino college students enrolled in STEM programs.
Together, the MESA program and SHPE serve as tangible representations of the college’s commitment to help financially disadvantaged and underrepresented students gain access to high caliber academic and professional resources.
On Friday, students from Francis Polytechnic High School, North Hollywood High School, Sun Valley High School and Van Nuys High School will visit the college’s Valencia campus for a day of STEM-related activities and discussions.
Students are set to arrive at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center at approximately 9 a.m. where they’ll start their visit with a water bottle rocket launch before taking part in the rest of the day’s itinerary.
An array of interactive activities has been scheduled, including a scientific overview of the field of astronomy and shared stories from COC students and instructors about the hardships they grew up with and how they worked to overcome them.
Other scheduled activities include a magnet and iron fillings exploration table and an activity about refraction and the Earth’s atmosphere.
Following a Q&A panel over lunch, the students will then depart by bus back to their respective schools.
“Many of these students have never visited College of the Canyons, which means a trip like this could have an unforgettable and lasting impact,” Ciardi added.
This event has been made possible through a partnership among College of the Canyons, the non-profit organization STAR Education, and GEAR UP, a federal grant designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
As part of the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to high-poverty secondary schools. Program funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
STAR Education is a non-profit organization recognized for its innovative education and community-based cultural enrichment programs. STAR currently serves more than 500 schools in 60 school districts, reaching more than 1 million students and their families every year.