Los Angeles City College Opens STEM Academy

By Jocelyn Graf

For the spring semester, Los Angeles City College, with the help of a generous grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, launched the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy, an invaluable resource for students who hope to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM major.

One hundred students have already signed up for the new academy, which provides services that include academic counseling, tutoring, an engineering fabrication lab and skills workshops for the STEM disciplines.

“We are following a national trend in promoting education for STEM careers,” said Jayesh Bhakta, chair of the LACC physics and engineering department, and the faculty adviser for the STEM Academy. “We are creating a program that follows the best practices established through research and through the work of programs like California MESA [Math Engineering Science Achievement]. We want to see students learn and succeed in their classes, connect them with internships and industry mentors, and then ensure that they can transfer and graduate with a four-year STEM degree.”

Jocelyn Graf, director of the STEM Academy, is herself a former LACC engineering student. She brings a combination of teaching, program administration, academic advising and industry experience to the position, and a determination to help disadvantaged students. “We are building a comprehensive support program to assist those students,” said Graf, “in overcoming barriers to success in their courses, in building their resume, and in planning a career.”

The Learning Center is the hub of STEM Academy activity, a place for tutoring, group study and socializing. “Since we have been able to hang out at the Learning Center,” said STEM Academy student Megan Rose Scislowicz, “I have started to make friends with students in the other science majors for the first time. I also know I have a place I can go to get help with my homework or any problems that come up on campus.”

Omar Martinez, STEM Academy member and Associated Student Government liaison, is working with the Academy to plan the first annual LACC STEM Academic Conference, to be held in September. This conference will bring together LACC students interested in the sciences, along with faculty and students from four-year schools. STEM-related student clubs will compete for prizes for the best research poster or service learning project.

“The campus atmosphere has already changed because of the presence of the STEM Academy,” said Martinez. “Students in the STEM majors feel more of a sense of school spirit.”

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