STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is highly important because it serves as a stepping stone to get students of all ages and races to prepare for careers in any one of those fields. An increasing emphasis has been placed on STEM education nationally in the last few years. The U.S. Department of Education says that only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in STEM careers. And of those who study those fields in college, only about half choose to work in such a career.
An organization called the Pennsylvania Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), a division of MESA USA, which was founded in 1970, helps millions of low-income students get involved in STEM through challenging courses, mentors and training.
Hosted by Temple University in Philadelphia, the MESA initiative offers free Saturday classes, a two-week summer camp and support to after-school clubs in a variety of technology-based subjects. It focuses on African-American and Latino students who are underrepresented in high-paying STEM jobs.
Since the program’s launch in May 2011, it has served over 3,500 students in grades six through 12 in the School District of Philadelphia, including those in some of the district’s lowest-performing high schools. Recently, students in the program took home four team medals and 18 individual awards at the 2013 MESA USA National Engineering Championships.
Another program called the Logistics, Acquisitions & Supply System Operations (LASSO) is a two-week summer camp taught almost exclusively by Navy core officers. It builds on skills in math, Microsoft Excel, teamwork and problem solving. During the summer of 2013, the Navy contracted with Pennsylvania MESA to organize the camp in three other cities: Chicago, Baltimore and Newark. This summer, the program is planned to be conducted in 12 different cities.