Monday, April 15, 2013 (Bronx, NY) - Stimulating students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has become a national priority. While it is projected that seven out of the 10 fastest-growing occupations during the next decade will be in STEM fields, many students—particularly high school students—aren’t taking advantage of these opportunities.
According to a recent report conducted by STEMconnector and the college planning service My College Options, 60 percent of the students in the United States who initially show an interest in STEM fields have changed their minds by the time they graduate.
And the statistics are worse for women and minorities, especially African Americans and Latinos.
However, a program at Hostos Community College is working to reverse this trend by getting secondary education students interested in these fields. Offered at Hostos since 1996, the “Proyecto Access STEP Program” is currently headed by Professor Moise Koffi. STEP stands for “Science and Technology Entry Program,” and “Proyecto” is Spanish for project, which reflects the goal of reaching underrepresented minority students.
Initially launched by NASA and later taken over by the New York State Department of Education, this program is designed to identify socially and economically disadvantaged middle and high school students who have the potential to become scientists or engineers and provide them with an introduction to STEM fields, educational projects and other resources. The program is affiliated with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and has branches at several other institutions.
Dr. Koffi said the main goal of the program is to identify and recruit students with special aptitude for math, science, engineering and related fields, not only to facilitate their learning but also to maintain their interest in STEM fields. Dr. Koffi also directs the CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program). Other key components of the Proyecto Access program include preparing students for SAT and Regents Exams and providing research activities for those in STEP and CSTEP.
For Dr. Koffi, the most important thing is getting students to return summer after summer to complete each level. So far, the retention rate for Proyecto Access is 85 percent on average. Since 1996, about 3,000 students have completed the program.
The Proyecto Access CSTEP Program works with The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering, which offers a dual engineering degree program with Hostos. Dr. Koffi is particularly proud of the comprehensive and popular summer program, which is literally a boot camp for aspiring STEM superstars that places particular emphasis on “learner-centered” instruction, technology uses in the classroom and preparation for the transition from school to a high technology workplace.
From July 1 to August 9, Dr. Koffi and a team consisting of 12 other college professors and high school teachers will work with at least 150 students from 100 area secondary schools from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dr. Koffi also leads a similar half-day STEM program held each Saturday at Hostos.
“We really want students to not only learn, but get practical experience,” Dr. Koffi said. “This will set them apart from the competition when they get to college and ultimately, enter the workforce.” Dr. Koffi added another highlight is the engineering “Competition Day” where students can win awards for their creations.
Dr. Koffi, who has been at Hostos for 10 years, explained that for CSTEP students, the Proyecto Access program provides the chance for them to learn how to teach and conduct research with college faculty. CSTEP provides tutoring support to Hostos undergraduates in gateway courses in STEM. The program prepares Hostos students for a smooth transition to four-year institutions to pursue undergraduate and graduate studies. It also provides career training as it prepares students for the labor market.
The summer program places students in four levels, depending on age and how well they know the subjects. Classes on average have 15 students. Level 1 includes pre-algebra, algebra, computer science, introduction to engineering and technical writing classes. There is also an hour-long tutoring sessions at the end of the day at all levels. Level 4 places the emphasis on research and also prepares students to take the SAT exam.
In addition to the learning derived from lectures by STEM experts, classroom work and field trips, Dr. Koffi hopes that the projects really take the students to the next level. Students design and build towers, bridges or robots; it is all geared toward providing hands-on experience.
As another reward for their hard work, six STEP students were invited to the 21st Annual Statewide Student Conference held in Albany from March 8 to March 10. Hosted by the New York State Education Department and Syracuse University, this conference is another great networking tool that enables students to share their work. This year, the attendees included 385 students and 227 administrators, chaperones and parents from 47 STEP Programs throughout New York State.
Also, two Hostos CSTEP students recently shared their research topics at another conference held April 12 to April 14 at the Sagamore on Lake George Bolton Landing in New York. Hostos faculty member Dr. Damaris-Lois Lang also served as a judge at the conference.
To learn more about Proyecto Access, go to http://oit.hostos.cuny.edu/proyectoaccess.
About Hostos Community College:
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, was founded in 1968. In addition to associate degree programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions, Hostos also has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development that offers courses for professional development and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. In four decades, Hostos has grown from a class of 623 in 1970 to more than 7,000 students in 2012. The college also serves an additional 12,000 students through its Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. For more news and stories about Hostos Community College, visit www.hostos.cuny.edu
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