Federal grant helps boost program

HSI STEM program receives $5.95 million in federal support

By Michael Santone, News Editor

The Hispanic Serving Institution STEM program at Contra Costa College received a $5.95 million grant to help increase the number of Latino and low-income students in areas of science, technology, engineering and math, through programs, counseling and added curriculum.

Contra Costa College HSI STEM Manager and Equity Director Mayra Padilla said, “I’m very proud that we got it,” having beaten out four-year universities and two-year institutions throughout the U.S.

The federal grant competition was funded by the Department of Education through toss-up money to support initiatives for racial groups in undeserved populations.

“The $5.95 million was ready to be used as of Oct. 1 and has a five-year plan to support the college with an allocated amount of $1.2 million a year,” Padilla said.

“The principle goals of these grants are to make sure Latino students have access to and are college ready.”

The funds will help design programs in high school for students to make a smooth transition into college with a strong focus to explore STEM, including accelerated math and science course.

Programs such as METAS which is a free tutoring and academic support program for K-12 grade, were funded by the previous grant HIS STEM received.

“There is an underrepresentation of students in the STEM field, especially with Latino students,” Padilla said.

The idea is to get students to transfer into a four year university in which these programs that STEM will be able to provide through the grants are articulated with UC and private universities, she said.

The funds will also go to creating concurring enrollment and increase the number of students within the Latino community. They will provide services such as coaching and student support, which will offer counseling to help manage financial aid, majors and degrees, transferring, and notifying and preparation for upcoming deadlines, Padilla said.

“The services will also provide resources for all of the programs to create a strong pipeline from our institution to a four year, so that students don’t fall through the cracks,” Padilla said.

“We’ve really been supporting engineering students,” she said.

“Computer science is one of the highest earning fields and we want to create more hands-on courses for engineering design with a computer science department, large computer center and full time faculty members.”

Some of the other plans for the funds would be career exploration, STEM workshops and activities such as math jam, leadership opportunities and community service.

“This is more of a capability-building grant, meant to create institutional process so that the growth in the area past the grant cycle will continue to thrive,” Padilla said.

Abigail Serrano, global disease biology major, said the grant provides essential resources for students including financial aid and internships over the summer.

“Mayra has an amazing plan to make the HSI STEM program great. Receiving the grant shows that CCC has a lot of potential and we are working toward serving students. I hope the money can keep the programs like Math Jam, METAS and CSE going,” Serrano said.

A part of the grants initiative was a proposal request from the Department of Education which CCC responded to with a 60- page document containing research-based strategy supporting the best practices for students through math sequences.