Institute serves underrepresented population

STEM provides help developing academic skills

By Karla Juarez, Advocate Staff

The Hispanic Serving Institute STEM program provides support and opportunities for Hispanic and other underrepresented students who find education a difficult way to reach success.

Through programs provided by HSI STEM, Hispanic students improve their academic skills by receiving the help they need.

HSI STEM focuses on the Hispanic population since although they are the largest minority population, they are underrepresented, Contra Costa College’s HSI STEM Grant and METAS Director Mayra Padilla said.

The HSI STEM Program Coordinator Kelly Ramos said, “Given that less than 2 percent of the STEM workforce is Hispanic while almost 20 percent of the country’s youth population is Hispanic, this gives us cause to increase awareness and access to STEM with a focus on our Hispanic/Latino students.”

Dr. Padilla said, “The question is, how are those (Hispanic) students doing compared to those others.”

A college is in the Hispanic serving category when it reaches 25 percent of the Hispanic population, Dr. Padilla said.

HSI STEM is connected with Math Jam, METAS, the Center for Science Excellence and Adelante STEM Academy programs.

Each program has its goal to help students to get confidence in themselves.

Padilla said, “In order to help them (students), we have to change the culture of the college.”

“If we find that they are not doing well, the issue is not the students. The issue is the institute,” Padilla said.

HSI STEM is in CCC to provide the Hispanic community opportunities to grow as part of its programs, Padilla said.

The Math Jam program offers help for those students who have struggled with math. “They help students to have a better relationship and outlook with math,” Padilla said.

Earth science major Lorena Mendel said, “Math Jam offered me more confidence in myself and my capabilities of doing math. I received a great deal of emotional support and self-help skills. I did better at school.”

Math Jam helps students to have confidence doing Math and to prepare them for a successful completion of their math classes through workshops.

Ramos said, “Our STEM smarts workshops focus on building student success skills applicable to STEM courses.”

She said examples of workshop topics are: successful math note-taking and textbook learning, overcoming math test anxiety, developing a task management style and creating a final exam schedule.

HSI STEM offers tutoring and leadership opportunities through METAS, Padilla said.

METAS provides tutoring for students from preschooler to high school seniors, so this program is not only for college students, but also for the whole community, Ramos said.

Ramos said, “It assists in outreach activities for preschool-12th grade students and foster success and STEM interest.”

Mendel said she experienced what it was like to be a student in METAS and the benefits that came with it helped her son.

The Center for Science Excellence is another program that supports students majoring in astronomy, biology, earth science, engineering, chemistry or mathematics.

The CSE provides students mentoring, tutoring, workshops, transfer guidance and activities like field trips, Padilla said.

Ramos said mentoring provides students with connections to prepare them to transfer, campus faculty and individuals working in the STEM fields.

Padilla said, “The CSE offers conversations with students in order to talk about their backgrounds.”

Not only does the CSE help students with their academic skills, but also with the obstacles outside of school, Padilla said.

HSI STEM also helps the Adelante STEM Academy program, which focuses on students who are majored in STEM fields. The Adelante program provides students workshops to guide them to a successful major.

“They offer workshops like STEM Café, so students can hang with graduate students,” Padilla said.

Ramos said STEM Café offers a series of talks between successful individuals working in the STEM field as well as STEM majors at CCC.

“These professionals will share their personal and professional journeys in STEM, and students will have the chance to relate, connect and be inspired in their own journeys,” Ramos said.

Students will also have the opportunity to ask questions and network at each of these events, Ramos said.