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STEAM enrichment is important to the Housing Opportunities Community Partners and the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC).  Black and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented in STEM careers despite the increase in STEM employment (79%) and computer jobs (338%) (Funk and Parker, 2018).  Students as early as Elementary School need academic enrichment, mentoring support and encouragement to be successful in school and prepared for college. Unfortunately, only 46% of low-income students matriculate into college (US Census).  Most of them have misconceptions about college affordability and accessibility. This impacts their academic performance in Middle and High School. Also, they are less likely to have parental encouragement needed to meet the college preparation milestones, i.e. effective SAT preparation, proper high school course selections, college applications and seeking academic financial assistance.

Therefore, Community Partners and HOC plan to launch STEAM Forward in the fall of 2021.  This is a comprehensive out-of-school program for low-income students grades 5-12. Participants will follow a defined timeline of activities and specialized programs that better prepare them for success in school, career exploration and matriculation into college. STEAM Forward will offer a wide array of STEM curricula, an arts component, creative writing and public speaking, parent enrichment, social entrepreneurship, internships, leadership development, and a college access component that features individualized college coaching, workshops on all aspects of applying to college and ultimately college retention.

COLLEGE ACCESS

For our College Access component of STEAM Forward, Community Partners and HOC will partner with First Generation College Bound (FGCB) in order to help youth from low-income and first-generation families to achieve social and economic success by providing advice, encouragement, and support in obtaining a college degree.

To this end FGCB will offer several out-of-school workshops, individualized coaching and mentoring support needed to inform and encourage youth to graduate from high school and matriculate into college. FGCB’s package of College Access services includes workshops on all the aspects of applying to college, conducted for juniors and seniors separately. Also, each College Access participant starting in the 11th grade receives individualized coaching. Bi-weekly coaching contacts in the 11th grade soon turn into weekly contacts in the 12th grade to ensure that no deadlines are missed, and all the opportunities of academic support and financial assistance are sought in a timely and effective way.

Coaching does not end when the student receives the acceptance letters. Coaching continues well into college. The coach ensures that the student applies for all possible financial aid and scholarships, secures their place in college housing, and fulfills their requirements for class scheduling. Then throughout the student’s first year in college, FGCB regularly checks in on the student, sends care packages and assesses how well the student has adjusted to their new academic rigors.

Workshops and coaching will be offered virtually. Transitioning to in-person or even hybrid sessions will be considered only when local health restrictions allow.