Science Research Institute STEM program helps motivated high school and college students


Highly motivated inner-city Minneapolis students from Washburn and St. Paul students from Central and Higher Ground Academy high schools interested in science and math participated in a five week science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program this summer. Two college laboratories, each with a college professor, 20 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused students—high school mentees and college mentors—participated in the 2011-2012 Science Research Institute (SRI) summer program.

Mentees said while immersed in the STEM summer curriculum, mentors were available to guide and assist them with hands-on learning projects. As a result, both said they experienced greater confidence when attempting other academic work during the program.

The program was a coordinated effort at Concordia University in St. Paul and Northwestern College in Roseville. The five week program ran from July 5 to August 5, with students attending class from 9:00a.m.-1:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.

High school student participation in the SRI program required completing an application by the student and a referral form by a teacher. The SRI summer program will extend to the academic school year 2011-2012 beginning September 2011 and ending May 2012.

Students who complete the SRI program receive a total of $500 which includes a stipend of $400 for summer participation and $100 for the academic year program in which they meet once a month and continue their summer projects. Dr. Michele Kieke said the stipend helped to make up for income the inner-city students might have earned from summer jobs. She said SRI leaders did not want any of the students to be faced with the dilemma of choosing between getting a summer job and participating in the SRI program. Dr. Kieke said SRI received $100K last year and $55K this year in large grants from corporations including Medtronic and Boston Scientific, as well as smaller contributions from other corporations.

Helping women and minorities enter science and engineering careers has been the goal of the SRI since it started in 2006. While referring to 2006 data, Dr. Kieke said white women and minorities significantly trail white men as scientists and engineers. She said the SRI program was established to influence more women and minorities to choose STEM occupations.

Mohamed Khalif, a Concordia University freshman, math major and mentor said, “I had a lot of fun providing guidance as a role model for mentees and a liaison between the instructor and the four students that I mentored by answering questions and helping them.” He said one of his more memorable experiences was when he introduced a student to using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to document statistical data, and she enthusiastically expressed gratitude for his help.

Jcarri Roberson, a Washburn High School junior said, “I want to become an anesthesiologist or a medical engineer.” Roberson said she would like to help make heart pacemakers function better.  She said, “My mentor was extremely helpful, especially since he knew Excel. He was able to help me with statistical graphs and standard deviations, and I did not have to write everything down on paper.”

Jessica Mueller, a Concordia University junior, biology major and mentor said, “I enjoyed helping the kids learn about science and seeing how quickly they caught on to everything.” Mueller said she often helped students with equations and measurements.

Zainab Farah, a Higher Ground Academy junior said, “I find it fascinating how the smallest creatures move in their habitat!” She added, “Biology is the closest you will get to discovering how life works. … I like the fact that everyone wants to be here and learn in the classroom—and no time was wasted.” Farah said, “I didn’t know what biodiesel was and didn’t know how to work in groups, so the program helped me not only enhance my technical skills but social skills too.”

Andrea Appel, a University of Minnesota student and high school biology student-teacher said, “I look forward to bringing back to the classroom my experience of learning how bio-fuel relates to the ecology—how it benefits the environment.”

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.