Written by Shelby Ramsey, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16, CSU Monterey Bay School of Computing and Design
Since my service began at CSUMB in the School of Computing and Design, I especially wanted to help with the focus on recruitment of high school students in Monterey County for our Computer Science in three years (CSin3) program. For the majority of schools we go into for the CSin3 program, there are many students for whom postsecondary education is not a primary priority, let alone a computer science degree. Most don’t even know what computer science is.
Our duty as a team, role models, and motivators is important to help reassure students that, first and foremost, college can be for them. As a part of the CSin3 program we also want to decrease the self-doubt that these students have, increase their awareness of computer science, and breakdown the stigmas that have been set in these communities and empower students to view their backgrounds positively. When we get into these classrooms, we know we are sometimes faced with the barriers of a student’s lack of math readiness, a student body with predominantly working parents in the agriculture fields of Monterey County, and simply just wants to get out of high school and go straight into the workforce in order to help take care of their family and or just to be able to provide for themselves. That’s why the impact of high school recruitment is important for the CSin3 program.
The students we present to are predominately of Latino/a descent: a group which is already not highly represented in STEM degrees, period. There are stigmas placed on this particular student body in Monterey County, either that they’ll just be field workers or that they won’t pursue such educational opportunities. Typically, their families’ culture doesn’t necessarily support postsecondary education. Providing financially for the family immediately is seen as more valuable than a college education and especially an abstract STEM degree like computer science.
With a lack of role models and resulting negative stereotypes that the student body faces about its own academic ability, it can be hard to make students see why a college education could possibly be for them. The students still have not yet seen anyone in their family pursue a college degree, and there aren’t people they know working as computer scientists or educators, for example.
We bring our recruitment presentation into the high school classrooms in order to create a cohort of students from Monterey County for the next school year. We make it our diligent duty to ensure that the CSin3 program can be a fit for any student, even if they have not yet thought about postsecondary education. The presentation lets students know what we provide and how the CSin3 program can benefit the student. We provide information that there is a math readiness program for the students before they start their college courses if they feel they are not math ready. This way a student will hopefully not continue to experience self-doubt, believing they’re not being prepared for college courses, as math is a necessity in the beginning of the CSin3 program. This can be hard when students are not excelling academically, receiving low grades in their math classes. Having this approach will hopefully alleviate a lot of “what ifs” in the thought process of a student who is considering postsecondary education, as well.
I myself come from a background where neither books nor the proper math classes were provided to help students be considered college ready. I come from a county where they expect young women of my background to produce babies that they will not be able to take care of, or wind up being murdered, rather than becoming college graduates. That’s why we are in schools letting the student body know that we understand. We have been there. But don’t just take our word for it. You can be the one to change your family culture and break the intergenerational cycles of poverty. You can be a role model for your community. Computer science is the now and the future, and we can also help you become college ready regardless of your background and obstacles you have faced. You can do it. We can help.