Bridging the gap for underrepresented communities in STEM

Posted at 7:22 AM, Aug 03, 2022

ASHLAND, Va. — There are high-paying and rewarding careers in STEM fields, but not every student has exposure to them or gets the chance to foster a love of learning. That's why this summer program at Randolph Macon College is hoping to change that.

It was started in 2017 by a group of faculty members from the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences departments who were passionate about equal access to a college education for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender.

It helped students like Tanya Sancen.

"I think it honestly gave me the chance to go to college," said Tanya. "I come from a lower middle-class background, and unfortunately my family had personal tragedy. My father passed away when I was young, and it put us below the poverty line and I always had dreams of college, but I wasn't really sure how I'd fulfill that, as well as being the child of a first-generation immigrant."

Tanya and her friend Grace joined others for experiments in ecology, engineering and electricity.

RMC Chemistry Professor April Marchetti explained the types of students they’re inviting.

“We looked at places in the Central Virginia area where people in underrepresented groups are more underrepresented and one of the places, we found, were Latinos in STEM fields," said Professor Marchetti.

The program takes them out of the classroom, and hopefully, out into the real world with a career in mind.

"So, we hope that everyone who participates in our program graduates from high school and so far, every participant has, and we hope that most of them choose to attend some sort of higher education after they graduate from high school," Professor Marchetti added.

"They gave me all these resources," said student, Grace Figueroa. “They taught us about FASFA, taught about how to get outside scholarships and how to apply for internal scholarships, those also provided us with a pretty sizable scholarship as well while fostering my love for STEM."

Fostering that love of learning... is Building Better Minds.

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