LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2022 Grants Challenge

Advancing Gender and Racial Equity

Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. STEM Advantage mentors, prepares and inspires women and underserved communities to pursue STEM careers. We provide economic and social mobility to underserved groups, while providing a vetted pipeline of diverse talent to businesses to fill their workforce needs. Through partnerships and a collective impact model, we “level the playing field” for low-income, first-generation college students to earn a bachelor’s degree, excel in STEM careers, and “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

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

County of Los Angeles

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Low college graduation rates for low-income, first-generation students of color and the lack of diversity in STEM professions demonstrate systemic racial and socioeconomic inequities. While college graduates have an increased earning potential of up to $1 million over a lifetime, only 67% of students from low-income households enroll in college nationally vs. 83% of their high-income peers. National college graduation rates for low-income youth show only 11% earn a bachelor's degree. A 2018 Pew Center Study reports Latinx individuals make up 16% of the total US workforce yet only 7% of the STEM workforce. A Million Women Mentors report indicates women account for 24% of the STEM workforce yet nearly 50% of the workforce nationwide. For every 100 female undergraduate students, 12% graduate with a STEM major and only 3% work in STEM fields after graduation. STEM jobs pay more, on average, than non-STEM jobs and 80% of the fastest growing occupations depend upon mastery of STEM skills.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

We “level the playing field” by empowering talented students, who are mostly low-income, first-generation college students, with access to networks, employment, and economic mobility. Our program benefits the student (“STEM Advantage Scholar”), their family and community resulting in a generational impact and a clear path to address the gender and racial wealth gaps. We selected California State University as our first university partner because the CSU is the largest and most ethnically diverse 4-year public university system in the nation. Our comprehensive program includes: • Paid internships to help students gain real-world experience • 1-to-1 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, and • Community providing a sense of belonging, support, and opportunities to build their network. Scholars and alumni “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors for younger students. If they can see it, they can be it! Our program extends beyond graduation supporting alumni with a network of corporate leaders and career development to help them advance in their careers and build wealth. Plus, our Freshmen STEM Career Pathways program engages first-year college students, especially women, Black and Latinx students, provides exposure to STEM career opportunities, and drives persistence in a STEM major.

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

In 2021, the Los Angeles Business Journal honored STEM Advantage as Diversity, Inclusion + Equity “Nonprofit of the Year.” Our vision is to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive skilled workforce. Diversity is Los Angeles’ strength and education helps young people realize their full potential. 87% of our Scholars are students of color; 52% are women; 72% are low-income, first-generation college students; 100% live in California and over 99% stay here after graduation. Scholars tell us our program is “life changing” as they graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field and less student debt, and earn $75,000 average starting salary, a middle class, sustainable living wage. Scholars “Pay It Forward” as role models and mentors helping others, their families 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 opportunities, their career trajectory is changed affecting generations.

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

In 2021 the Los Angeles Business Journal honored STEM Advantage as Diversity, Inclusion + Equity Nonprofit of the Year. “The best thing I have done for my future, by far, was apply for the STEM Advantage program.“ - Sirena, Computer Science major Our program is high touch with high impact. Program impact since launched in 2012: • 600 STEM Advantage Scholars • 100% graduation rate with persistence in a STEM major • 100% get an entry-level job in their major or attend graduate school upon graduation • 100% paired with a 1-to-1 mentor • 52% women • 87% students of color • 72% low-income, first-generation college students • On average Scholars raised their salaries by over 400% comparing their pre-program salary to their first job post-graduation o 87% earned under $20,000 before college o $75,000 average starting salary upon graduation, a middle class, sustainable living wage • Over $1.5 million in scholarships awarded • 8500 students served through professional development outreach

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

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 40,000

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

We did not submit a collaborative proposal; however, we collaborate with university campuses, businesses, professiol and industry organizations through partnerships and a collective impact model to advance our work. We have a small core team with more than 200 volunteers (most are STEM professiols) who serve as mentors providing 1:1 mentorship for each Scholar. We partner with more than 50 companies, including Farmers, Accenture, Deloitte, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, to provide paid internships and entry-level jobs. Professiol and industry organizations include Southern California Society for Information Magement and Women in Technology Hollywood. Many partners support multiple aspects of our program and promote to their Employee Resource Groups for volunteers to be mentors.