Cal State LA, Verizon Boost STEM Education Among East L.A. Middle Schoolers

Submitted by Cal State L.A.

Joseph Garcia from Griffith Middle School is one of the students who will be taking part in the Verizon Innovative Learning program at Cal State LA. Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

California State University, Los Angeles has joined a program under Verizon Innovative Learning to provide science, technology, engineering and math experiences to middle school boys in East Los Angeles.

Students will participate in summer intensive courses on the university campus to learn skills such as coding, 3-D printing, robotics and entrepreneurship that will help make them competitive for future careers in a digital economy. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, students will return to Cal State LA each month, for mentoring and continued training in STEM subjects. Through the partnership, Cal State LA was awarded a $400,000 grant.

The Verizon Innovative Learning program is a first-of-its-kind, two-year initiative that partners with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) to bring STEM skills to minority, middle school young men. This year, the program has expanded to 16 universities nationwide.

“This partnership with Verizon will allow us to reach younger students and spark their interest in STEM,” says William A. Covino, president of Cal State LA. “Our participation in the Verizon Innovative Learning program underscores our role as a leader in STEM. Cal State LA graduates are changing the face of STEM professions across the country.”

The National Science Foundation has noted Cal State LA’s success in graduating students of color who go on to earn the Ph.D. in STEM fields.

“Cal State LA is a perfect partner because of its longstanding ties with the community of East Los Angeles,” says Octavio Villalpando, Cal State LA’s vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for Academic and Student Life. “Through service-learning classes, Cal State LA students contribute hours of service to local schools and community-based organizations. We are a part of this community and we know it well.”

The Verizon Innovative Learning program will benefit students in sixth and seventh grades from five middle schools: Belvedere, Brooklyn Avenue-SPAN, Griffith, Hollenbeck and Stevenson.

The schools are part of the GO East LA initiative, a joint effort of the Los Angeles Unified School District, East Los Angeles College, and Cal State LA. The initiative was created in 2014 to promote greater academic outcomes for all East L.A. students by focusing on college awareness, preparation, completion, and career readiness.

Bianca Guzman, director of GO East LA, will coordinate the Verizon program at Cal State LA with support from University faculty members Mauricio Castillo, Claudia Kouyoumdjian, and Jessica Morales-Chicas.

The middle school students who satisfactorily complete the program are eligible to receive a free tablet from Cal State LA. They are also eligible to receive college course credit, and an opportunity to sign up for an apprenticeship certificate program to create computer applications.

“Through this program students will learn that they can become creators of technology,” says Jose A. Gomez, executive vice president for Cal State LA. “One of these kids is the next Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos, or Steve Jobs.”

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