Written by Brandy Hyatt, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-2015
Last year if you were to ask me if I would consider a second year of service, my answer would have been no. But, here I am five months into my second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Last year I was lucky enough to participate in an AmeriCorps state and national program; tutoring math to 4th and 5th graders. After my first year of service I realized I wanted to do more. Although I was making an individual impact, I was not making an impact on the larger issue at hand: a deficiency in mathematics, and similar subjects for underrepresented students.
I searched for a position that would give me an opportunity to focus on the larger issue and found the California State University STEM VISTA position available at CSU East Bay in the Institute for STEM Education. It was a perfect chance for me to learn about what initiatives were in place to increase the number of underrepresented students going into fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Serving at the Institute for STEM Education has taught me a great deal about the policies and structures in place to combat the lack of diversity in these fields. It has been amazing to learn about programs that are already in place, from seminars on K-14 cradle to career pathways in STEM, to curriculum writing, to learning about the community college transfer process and the required credits and course work. The institute truly works across all student levels.
After learning about all the existing programs and support systems, as a CSU STEM VISTA member I am able to give my feedback and suggest things to help increase and enhance the existing efforts. One of my major projects has been the Pioneers for Change (PfC) program with the Center of Community Engagement at CSU East Bay. The PfC programs gives students the opportunity to grow and develop as leaders though service learning, while being paid. Over a 6-month period, 5 STEM Student Leaders will assist in the preparation of science-based curriculum and activities for middle school students. I am proud to say was able to secure funding through the PfC program to pay the STEM Student Leaders for their work.
The PfC program is a great opportunity to connect university and middle school students through STEM education. This is important to me because exposing younger students to older students who are on a path to STEM careers can show youth that they too can be succeed in STEM. This program also gives university students an opportunity to become a role model to students from their own communities. It is critical for younger students to have a role model from STEM fields that look like them and come from similar circumstances.
If the pilot goes well, STEM Student Leaders will become a new track in the PfC program and will be funded beyond this year. Overall it has been an amazing 5 months and I cannot wait to add more to the Institute for STEM Education’s legacy.