Helping to CREATE a Culture of Collaboration for HACU’s Youth Leadership in STEM

CREATE was honored to participate as a community partner at the 2017 Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities Youth Leadership Development Forum STEM Day. Hosted by National University (NU) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), the Youth Leadership in STEM event was designed to be a fun and interactive day of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) exploration and discovery for middle school and high school students (grades 6-12) to explore STEM career paths and opportunities.

The event took place at National University’s main campus and served as a pre-conference event kicking off HACU’s 2017 conference in San Diego in late October. This event, sponsored in part by the General Motors (GM) Foundation, was a testament to the commitment of institutions of higher education and philanthropic entities who recognize the importance of addressing the disparities in STEM diversity and the need to provide adequate exposure opportunities and exploration of career paths in STEM at an early age.

The all-day event began with a few words from Dr. Antonio Flores (HACU President), Raul Villarreal (GM Foundation), Dr. Michael Cunningham (NU Chancellor), City of San Diego council member Chris Cate, and John C. Hernandez, a pilot/engineer/physicist who shared an impressive story of persistence and commitment. Transportation and meals were provided for close to 600 students from throughout Southern California. Students were so eager to attend that some even endured two-hour bus rides to participate! Among the attendees were hundreds of 6th to 12th graders from local schools, as well as schools from Moreno Valley, Menifee and Imperial Valley.

The day was organized around four pillars: STEM Career Pathway Exploration, Youth Leadership Development, College Bound workshops, and Hands-on Learning Opportunities and Activities. Throughout the course of the day, students conducted lab experiments, viewed live demonstrations, met inspiring professors and professionals who shared their first-hand (personal and professional) experiences, and learned about exciting career paths in forensics, cyber security, video game programming and robotics, to name a few. Students also learned about the pathways to college acceptance and success in STEM majors and careers from local partnering institutions like the San Diego County Office of Education, the San Diego Community College District, and the San Diego Workforce Partnership. National University’s STEM programs were also out in full force and complemented by over 60 partnering organizations from education, government, industry and non-profit sectors.

Through the CREATE STEM Success Initiative, CREATE works at such events to share expertise in STEM education and simultaneously include student organizations and neighboring institutions to foster intra/inter-institutional collaboration. As such, CREATE staff organized student panels to share their wisdom. Student organizations from UC San Diego’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and San Diego City College’s SACNAS Chapter conducted workshops using Arduino circuit boards and provided a variety of table demonstrations capturing different elements of the sciences.

Likewise, CREATE’s very own Kathryn Schulz, director of the San Diego Science Project (inside CREATE), and Dr. Jim Rohr, educational outreach director for the National Marine Mammal Foundation and friend of CREATE (pictured right), conducted an engaging workshop titled “Living Under an Ocean of Air,” modeled after Dr. Rohr’s research with dolphins.

Beto Vasquez, CREATE STEM Outreach Specialist, with San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) auto tech instructor Frank Vasquez (left), also co-facilitated a lesson called “Switching Gears: Discovering the Science of Cars,” as an effort to normalize the everyday science that surrounds us.

CREATE was also joined by the STEM Conexiones Program (a new initiative at San Diego Mesa College aiming to increase student connections in STEM) , San Diego State University’s RESISTE Program (committed to addressing disparities in STEM diversity and higher education), University of San Diego’s Office of Undergraduate Research (dedicated to enhancing research opportunities for undergraduate students), and individuals like Professor Rob Rubalcaba (right), a math instructor at San Diego City College, who has made it a point to make learning fun and engaging – by bringing together hip-hop music and math!

CREATE was established in 1997 as UC San Diego’s entity to support local K-12 outreach and college preparation efforts, specifically for students too often underrepresented in college. Twenty years later, our charge to marshal campus resources towards support of K-12 (and community college) students and teachers in the San Diego region continues. Events like HACU’s Youth Leadership Development STEM Day allow us to focus on supporting K-12 schools and systems, while also supporting community college and UC San Diego colleagues to work collaboratively and design innovative outreach and education programming to meet local education needs and fostering the growth of undergraduate students. Our goal is to continue leveraging UC San Diego’s resources to support the college and career preparation of students and teachers throughout the region. And our goal is equity: we work to support the full human talent development of every student in the San Diego region, particularly from communities that might not otherwise access higher education opportunities.

We would like to join National University and HACU in extending our gratitude to the General Motors Foundation for their financial support of this event. Furthermore, we would like to extend a special appreciation and recognition to HACU, National University and all the contributing groups and individuals that were involved for their generosity of time and support.

To learn more about how CREATE and the CREATE STEM Success Initiative at UC San Diego supports collective campus-community efforts to promote and connect STEM learning in our region, contact Beto Vasquez, CREATE STEM outreach coordinator, at alv002@UCSD.EDU.