2021 Grants Challenge

Advancing equity through education to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive skilled workforce

Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. STEM Advantage mentors, prepares and inspires women and underserved communities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We provide economic and social mobility to underserved groups, while providing a vetted pipeline of diverse talent to businesses. Through partnerships and a collective impact model, we “level the playing field” to help low-income, first generation college students graduate, launch STEM careers, and “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA


South Bay

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Covid-19 amplified inequality by race, income, gender, and occupation, made long-present inequalities and systemic injustice impossible to ignore, and brought a new urgency to act and prepare low-income minorities to earn a living wage. Educational attainment matters in terms of one’s ability to earn a living wage. According to the Wall Street Journal, “workers with bachelor’s degrees or higher had nearly fully recovered jobs lost in early spring” by September 2020. There are over 1 million unfilled STEM jobs in California. Over 60% require a college degree or higher. Yet internships and jobs are highly competitive and often found through networking, referrals and family relationships. Recruiting compounds the issue. According to Harvard Business Review, “the most prestigious employers are going directly to a limited set of schools to hire new talent, systematically skewing the playing field toward students from a handful of schools…[which] has implications for corporate diversity.”

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Through partnerships and a collective impact model with businesses, professional and industry organizations, STEM Advantage provides economic and social mobility to underrepresented groups, while providing a vetted pipeline of diverse talent to businesses. Our program is designed to “level the playing field” and help low-income, first generation college students attending a public university graduate and launch STEM careers, and then “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors. We give students attending California State University, the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse 4-year public university system, many of the benefits that students attending a private university receive, including: • Paid internships to help students gain real-world experience • Mentors to provide a role model, support, guidance and coaching • Scholarships to attend classes full-time and graduate with less student debt • Professional development and career panels to prepare for their job search • Community, including a sense of belonging and opportunities to build their network Honored by Los Angeles Business Journal as Diversity, Inclusion + Equity Nonprofit of the Year, we willl: • Select 175-200 Scholars for new cohort • Include 500 Freshmen in professional development, mentorship and community • Hire a Program Manager to support Freshmen program • Conduct 25 professional development workshops/career panels • Collaborate with organizations that focus on women, Black and Latinx students

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 3,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Byron Allen, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios, said “Education is everything to help kids realize their full potential” as keynote for Los Angeles Business Journal’s Diversity, Inclusion + Equity Awards on March 24. We agree. STEM Advantage was honored as Diversity, Inclusion + Equity “Nonprofit of the Year.” Scholars tell us our program is “life changing” as they transform from low-income, first generation college students to earn a middle-class wage with $71,000 average starting salary. They “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors to help others, including their siblings and communities. If they can see it, they can be it! As their children grow-up in a middle-class family with access to education and exposure to opportunities, their career trajectory is changed affecting generations. Diversity is Los Angeles’ strength. 87% of our Scholars are students of color. 95% of the CSU’s students come from California; most stay here after graduation.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We track and analyze results through a customized Salesforce platform. When scholar applications are submitted (annually), they flow into Salesforce. Demographic questions collect gender, ethnicity, Pell grant recipient (proxy for low-income), first-generation and veteran status. We talk to students frequently to discuss internships, jobs and mentors. We gather formal (through surveys) and informal feedback from all stakeholders, including scholars, alumni, internship providers, mentors, campus liaisons and companies that hire scholars upon graduation to monitor and evaluate our program. We analyze and discuss feedback as a leadership team to refine, as appropriate, our program. Impact since 2012: STEM Advantage Scholars • 100% graduation rate in a STEM major and hire rate post-graduation • 460 Scholars; nearly half are women, 87% are students of color • $1.2 million+ in scholarships • $71,000 average starting salary • 7,500 students served through professional development outreach

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

We did not submit a collaborative proposal; however, we have partnerships and a collaborative model. Corporate partners provide paid internships, hire entry-level talent, and provide mentors. Employees participate in professional development workshops and on career panels. We partner with professional organizations, including Southern California Society for Information Management and Women in Technology Hollywood, to find internship partners and mentors. We have liaisons at each CSU campus we serve, including all five CSU campuses in the greater Los Angeles region: Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State LA, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly Pomona. We have informal partnerships with other non-profits to provide an educational continuum for the students they serve.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Employment in the tech industries

Income inequality

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to LEARN