Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Three Programs That are Promoting STEM Education Among Latinos

There’s lots of talk about the urgent need to improve Latino students’ math and science performance . But what programs exist that help Latino students pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

“We’re really focusing on the Hispanic community because of the education statistics we see for our students and where we will be as a nation if we don’t address these students.” said Rudy Reyna, executive director of the Pre-Freshman Engineering Program based in San Antonio. “These students are such a critical resource for the future of the nation.”

Here are a few programs that I learned about during a presentation by the Hispanic STEM Initiative at the College Board’s recent “Preparate” conference. The initiative’s members might be good resources for reporters looking to write about this topic.

♦ Parent Institute for Quality Education: The PIQE organization recently piloted a STEM awareness class for parents in Stockton, Calif. About 75 percent of parents participating in PIQE programs are Spanish-speaking. During the classes, parents were made aware of and encouraged to get their children involved with STEM-related school clubs and math competitions.

“They get to hear what their children would be earning if they went into these fields,” said
David Valladolid, president and CEO of PIQE. “They’re learning the preparation. Parents leave the classes with a full list of classes their children need to take.”

♦  PREP-USA (University of Texas at San Antonio): Middle and high school students take part in a seven-week summer learning Pre-Freshman Engineering Program on college campuses, where they can earn elective high school credits. Courses include problem solving, technical writing, water science and computer science. The program also takes place in other areas of the state, including Dallas, Houston and Laredo.

♦ MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement): This California program works on preparing a pipeline of STEM students beginning in middle school and carrying through college. About 60 percent of the student participants are Latino, said executive director Oscar Porter. The schools program is dedicated to year-round support for middle school and high school students.

The community college program focuses on supporting students at the college level, improving their skills in calculus-based majors and encouraging them to transfer to universities. Finally, the engineering program works on students at four-year institutions. MESA leaders say that the high school participants have a college-going rate of 70 percent, much higher than the state average.