Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM


DAHL, Robyn1, DROSER, Mary L.1, ROBERTSON, John S.2 and MOORE, Dale F.2, (1)Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, 900 University Ave, Riverside, CA 92521, (2)Riverside Unified School District, 4466 Mount Vernon Ave, Riverside, CA 92507,

A severe gap in STEM education, achievement and employment exists for students from underrepresented communities (e.g. students of color, from low income families and first-generation college students, girls). This achievement gap begins in elementary school and grows steadily through higher education, as students from underrepresented communities experience lower achievement in standardized testing, lower high school graduation rates, lower matriculation rates in college, lower college graduation rates, lower enrollment in graduate programs and, ultimately, lower employment in STEM fields. For example, while people of color are expected to comprise over half of the United States’ population by 2050, only 14.02% of STEM occupations are held by people of color and this rate has held steady over the past decade rather than growing proportionally with the population. The STEM education achievement gap is especially strong in Riverside, CA, a city with a majority Latino population and a public school district in which 76% of schools are federally designated as Title I (“High Poverty”) schools.

In order to address this STEM education achievement gap, we have created a science fair mentoring program to engage middle and high schools students from underrepresented communities in high-level science research. After three years, this program has shown great success in both creating competitive science fair projects and facilitating students’ entry into STEM majors in college. All of our mentored projects have progressed beyond first round science fair and many have reached state level competitions. Though the program is only three years old, we have seen direct success in moving RUSD students into STEM majors at four-year colleges. This program began as a component of a NASA Innovations in Climate Education and has been sustainably extended beyond the timeline of that grant. While each 7-12th grade student can receive up to $250 to spend on their project, mentors volunteer their time and this program is run at minimal cost to UCR. In addition to the direct benefits to participants, this program has strengthened connections between UCR and RUSD, and thus has helped to improve the STEM education pipeline in the region.