BEAM into a Summer of STEM Learning
This grant will support Discovery, a 5-week camp for rising 7th graders where students learn advanced math unlike what they’ve seen in school, and Summer Away, a 3-week residential program for rising 8th graders where students learn college-level math and make friends for life. BEAM serves students who are underrepresented in STEM, especially students who are Black, Latinx, and Indigenous; from low-income families; and first-generation college goers. BEAM supports students for 10 years through college helping them achieve their STEM dreams.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
K-12 STEAM Education
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
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?
STEM jobs are projected to grow at almost twice the rate of non-STEM jobs in coming years. Yet across STEM, Black and Latinx people in particular are dramatically underrepresented. Too often even students with high interest and potential in STEM from these communities have few high-quality STEM learning opportunities in school and out of school. Many have limited access to calculus in high school, a necessity for STEM success in college. Black and Latinx students also have fewer opportunities to take STEM AP classes, and are under-enrolled even when they express strong interest. In college, Black and Latinx students declare STEM majors at the same rate as their white and Asian peers, but many more Black and Latinx students switch from STEM majors or leave college altogether for a variety of reasons, chief among them that they are underprepared, unsupported academically, and face bias and other socioemotional challenges.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
At BEAM, we provide 10 years of support to students beginning in middle school and continuing through college to ensure they can succeed in STEM. This grant will support our middle school programs. Our programming begins with BEAM Discovery, a 5-week summer program for rising 7th graders. At Discovery, students do 200 hours of math over the summer and build a close-knit community of kids who love math. They choose their own classes (like Truth, Lies, and Logic; Mysterious Patterns; and Astronomy), solve math puzzles on teams as part of relays, and work together to solve 100 challenging problems (and win a prize for everyone). Students also do fun activities like soccer, chess, and origami. Many students tell us it is the first time they’ve been challenged in math. Discovery completers can apply to BEAM Summer Away, a 3-week residential summer program on a college campus for rising 8th graders. At Summer Away, students do advanced math that others might not study until college (like number theory or combinatorics) and build friendships for a lifetime. They do 7 hours of math a day (they love it!), take a field trip to Six Flags, hear talks from mathematicians, and even learn to do their own laundry. For many students, it’s their first time away from home. To our knowledge, BEAM is the only organization in the country providing comprehensive, long-term support to ensure success in advanced mathematics for students from low-income and historically marginalized communities.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
There is a paucity of resources for high-achieving STEM students in LA. This grant will help us bring together students with high interest and potential in math from underserved backgrounds, students who may otherwise never attend a summer camp, let alone explore advanced math. After summer programs, BEAM students return to their schools with a new mathematical perspective and enrich their classroom environments. As students continue with BEAM, we help them access strong high schools and prepare students to major in STEM in college. Ultimately, our goal is for our students to graduate with STEM majors and enter STEM careers. Such careers offer financial stability and prestige that can benefit individuals, families, and entire communities. In the long term, we are working to change the face of STEM in LA and nationwide, bringing a diverse range of life experiences and perspectives to the work, and making STEM more responsive to the needs of all.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
At our summer programs, students consistently grow in their problem-solving skills, in their stamina for solving difficult problems, and in their interest in math. A large majority of students participating in our 8th grade support program are admitted to selective high schools that offer calculus and prepare students for college. Many students earn spots at competitive STEM programs like Canada/USA Mathcamp and NASA internships. Finally, almost 70% of our high school students are admitted to Barron's-designated "very competitive" colleges. Our students tell us that BEAM has an overwhelmingly positive impact. Kaylin wrote: “BEAM has changed my perspective of learning forever. This program has helped boost my confidence, makes me love math and learning, and shows me skills that will help me in the future.” Olivia said: “If it weren’t for BEAM, I would have never learned about the Fibonacci sequence and Pascal’s pyramid, and I would have never seen numbers in such a beautiful way!”
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 140
Indirect Impact: 2,400