The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
A new College of San Mateo program promoting science, technology, engineering and math education is trying to open the door for some students typically shut out of the region’s wealth of desirable jobs.
With money from the U.S. Department of Education, the college will work alongside an educational support company to link Latino and low-income students to the job network driving Silicon Valley’s humming economy.
Over the next three years, 150 students at the College of San Mateo will receive academic and technological support intended to bolster their success in STEM disciplines, and ultimately prepare them for the local workforce.
Jose Rocha, who directs the school’s METaS program which aims to boost Latino enrollment in such disciplines, said he believes the initiative will be an effective method of building well-prepared students.
“We want to support them in any way we can to get them excited and interested in continuing on to transfer,” he said of the program in its first semester.
He added that METaS, Spanish for “goals,” stands to increase diversity in an industry often criticized for being culturally homogenous and closed off from underserved communities.
As part of the program, College of San Mateo students will get access to academic support from InsideTrack, a technology-based platform designed to offer personalized mentoring to students.
InsideTrack founder Kai Drekmeier said in a prepared statement he believes the partnership will be a tremendous benefit for local students.
“We are excited to be partnering with the College of San Mateo on this innovative program,” he said. “CSM is clearly committed to advancing equity and opportunity by expanding their students’ access to rewarding careers in rapidly growing STEM fields.”
InsideTrack will provide mentors to help students establish goals and develop plans to graduate with STEM degrees. The academic coaching will be supported by an analytics service, enabling school administrators and professors to track a student’s progress.
The guidance will be offered in ways most useful to students, said Rocha, as mentors will be accessible remotely via email, phone, text messaging and other virtual platforms.
“We are trying to meet the students where they are at and find what opportunities students need,” he said.
Rocha said the service will be a welcome addition to the METaS program’s growing collection of initiatives designed to assist Latino and low-income students seeking careers in innovative industries.
Such assistance is direly needed, as evidenced by METaS’ claim that only 9 percent of those in 2013 who graduated across the nation with STEM degrees are Latino.
Rocha believes the College of San Mateo is uniquely positioned to help boost participation in the field, considering its proximity to the tech sector combined with its substantial Latino student population.
Nearly 30 percent of the college’s student body was comprised of Latino students in 2015, according to the program’s website, and that figure is expected to grow to 42 by 2021.
With the population growth, Rocha said he expects the services offered by METaS to evolve as well once the program grows beyond its current size of approximately 100 students.
Outside of the recently launched collaboration, the program already has a variety of services in place to help increase Latino and low-income student participation in STEM education.
One of the more popular is an intensive week-long workshop series helping students improve poor placement tests in math or science or simply beef up their skills to more rapidly advance through their class schedule.
It offers book vouchers to cut costs for students, plus links them to financial aid, counseling and assessment services when necessary. It also provides internship opportunities to notable companies such as Apple, the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the United States Geological Survey, among other opportunities.
Rocha said he believes the most recent collaboration marks the next step in the college’s attempt to develop qualified and capable students prepared to take advantage of the unique opportunity in living near Silicon Valley.
“We are just trying to get them ready for the next steps in their life,” he said.