Program funds, supports diverse groups

By Gabriel Quiroz, Advocate Staff

Colleges that have more than 25 percent Latino students can be deemed “Hispanic Serving Institutions” and Contra Costa College is one of these institutions.

The Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) STEM program helped those in the Latino community, as well as the rest of CCC, when they received a $5.95 million grant last October.

HSI STEM Manager Mayra Padilla is the director of grants and the primary HSI STEM grant writer. She wrote in collaboration with other grant writers for the grant that HSI STEM program received.

“The grant is for building service capacity for the institution to serve Latino students.” Padilla said. “This is to help more Latino students to be college ready, as well as better preparing them to earn degrees and transfer in science, technology engineering or math (STEM).”

The HSI STEM grant has already contributed to many programs, not only in the Latino community, but also in many other STEM programs. The grant has helped to provide specialized tutoring such as the Math Jam.

The Adelante program receives funding from the grant to support students with occasional STEM Cafés, which provide workshops on how to take notes in math class, as well as seminars with successful minorities in STEM fields. These seminars tell students the steps the speakers took to get to where they are in their careers.

The grant also contributes to STEM Smarts; a program intended to help students successfully complete math and science courses. METAS is a program, contributed to by the grant, for K-12 students, that provides free tutoring on the weekends on CCC’s campus.

The Center for Science of Excellence (CSE) is a mentoring program and a compressive academic support program for STEM. CSE also provides scholarships, internships, seminars and academic trips.

CSE Coordinator Setiati Sidharta said she oversees grant writing, budgets, program activities and counseling of students.

Dr. Sidharta said, “The HSI grant helps with improving the facilities, such as new floors, tables and computers. The grant is also helpful in bringing CSE students to national conferences, as well as increasing teacher participation through funding. HSI enhances the CSE offerings that are available for us.”

She said, “CSE and HSI are a tremendous help in ushering STEM majors to graduate.” Seti said she is “grateful to Mayra Padilla for bringing these enhancements to CSE.”

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers President Anthony Garcia said some of his responsibilities include organizing meetings for the club and advertising the resources the organization and community can provide.

One of the main resources available is professional development, such as seminars and conferences, the main two being the Regional Leadership Development conference and the SHPE national conference, which both works to develop professionalism and inspire students to be leaders.

The HSI grant allowed for five of the students in SHPE to make the trip to the national conference. Garcia said he is “appreciative to the STEM office, the contributions that came from the HSI grant and how they are helping the students so selflessly.” Garcia said he would also, one day, want to see a Scholarship for SHPE because, “I believe everyone deserves the chance for success.”

Future plans for the grant include a new system called Starfish, which is like Facebook, but will be used to connect students to resources by using a group of people to help them with enrollment, declaring majors, counseling and financial aid.

The grant will also provide funds to support the West Contra Costa Unified School District by talking to teachers about how to get their students ready for college through STEM meets and greets.

The grant will also work toward renovating spaces in the Physical Science Building by creating smart rooms with 3D printers and laser cutters, which students will be able to design with towards the end of the five-year grant.