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learn / 2019

Keeping it Real: Breaking Barriers in STEM Education to Connect L.A. Students to the Real World of Science

Keeping it Real: Breaking Barriers in STEM Education to Connect L.A. Students to the Real World of Science

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by UNITE LA

Prepare high school students with a continuum of life sciences and biotech work-based learning experiences which will increase knowledge, interest, and confidence to pursue careers in STEM related pathways and increase students’ proficiency in math and science.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Through UNITE-LA’s existing partnership with LAUSD, UNITE-LA facilitated a partnership between the Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine in Southeast L.A. and USC Viterbi School of Engineering which led to a 10th grade mass spectrometry project and the opportunity to fund a 10th grade student, Marcus Gutierrez, to engage in a seven week summer internship in a real research lab, working side by side with professional mentors and other high school students to have a first hand learning experience. These are the real-world learning experiences that we want to bring to other students in South and Southeast L.A. This is how to make science real - connecting the students’ classroom learning to the real world!

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math
  • Students’ immersion in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math content
  • Student education pipeline

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • South LA

How will your project make LA the best place to learn?

Preparing educators & students in under-resourced communities, with learning experiences and knowledge needed in emerging STEM careers, is essential to our local communities’ economic health. According to a 2018 Public Policy Institute of CA report, the L.A. County poverty rate is 24%, the highest in the state. Major drivers of poverty include low-wage employment and barriers to living wage career pathways. UNITE-LA is committed to breaking barriers to income equity disparities and decreasing employment gaps by leveraging partnerships, programming and resources through our life sciences/biotech career pathway programming to meet our region’s growing STEM workforce needs.

This project focuses on 9-12th gr. students and seeks to engage 300 students in life sciences/biotech pathways at Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School and Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine.

Expected Outcome:

Participating students in the life sciences and biotech work-based learning (WBL) experiences will increase their knowledge, interest, and confidence to pursue careers in STEM related pathways, as well as expanded networks with industry professionals.

Through thoughtfully-designed WBL experiences-guest speakers, career fairs, company tours, job shadowing, professional development, job skills training and internships- that align with their curriculum, UNITE-LA increases students’ STEM proficiency.

Objective 1: Students participate in a series of career awareness activities:

2-3 guest speaker sessions, 2 career panels, 1-2 field trips to life sciences/biotech employers, and 1 student showcase (students showcase their knowledge of biotech & industry professionals assess students’ understanding of life sciences and careers in STEM) (Fall 2019)

Objective 2: Students participate in a series of career preparation activities:

1 job shadow experience, 1-2 job skills workshops, 1-2 work readiness certification assessments, 1-2 hands-on lab experiments (Winter 2020)

Objective 3: Teachers participate in STEM related training and professional development activities: 1-2 teachers are connected to partnerships with real industry professionals to support students’ experiential learning projects, 1-2 teachers participate in professional development workshops related to the life sciences/biotech, 1-2 teachers participate in an externship at a local biotech lab. (School year continuous: Aug. 2019-June 2020)

Objective 4: Increase access of regional life sciences/biotech employers in local talent and workforce development through their participation in work-based learning. Activities include: build 2-3 business education partnerships to support students from underserved communities interested in the life sciences and biotech industries, 4-5 regional biotech employers participate in work readiness assessment programming, develop 1-2 champions in biotech to influence increased industry support for work-based learning (School year continuous: Aug. 2019-June 2020)

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Using pre/post surveys, UNITE-LA will assess increased students’ awareness/interest in STEM career pathways.

Additional indicators measuring long term impact include:

  • increased student proficiency in math and sciences

  • increased retention and graduation rates for students in LAUSD STEM related pathways

  • increased engagement in business-education partnerships from STEM related industry partners

  • increased number of students entering STEM related internships

  • increased number of students entering post secondary education to pursue STEM and certificates and degrees

Our organization is committed to ensuring that all L.A. students have access to equitable outcomes and access to the opportunities needed to succeed in college and careers. UNITE-LA is confronting income and economic disparities within our neediest communities by promoting learning models that will produce the region’s talent for its emerging STEM workforce and related industries.