Itâ€™s been said that children are natural scientists. Because theyâ€™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 UCLAâ€™s Higher Education Research Institute.
In a recentÂ articleÂ in the Los Angeles Times, an important point is made; while thereâ€™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 studentsâ€”most of whom are poorly prepared to take on rigorous college math and science coursesâ€”the lack of preparation itself seems critical.
Academic Program Boosts Performance
To improve these studentsâ€™ 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.
â€œWeâ€™re really trying to bridge this gap between underperforming high schools and elite colleges,â€ 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.