LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Advancing equity through education & career development

Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. STEM Advantage mentors, prepares and inspires women and underserved communities to pursue STEM careers through internships, mentors, scholarships, professional and career development, and community. We "level the playing field" by empowering talented students, who are mostly first-generation college students from low-income families, with access to networks, employment and economic mobility, while providing a vetted pipeline of diverse talent to businesses to fill their workforce needs.


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?

The students we serve face deeply rooted systemic, racial and cultural barriers to accessing and pursuing opportunity, which impact their ability to pursue and succeed in achieving a college education, particularly in STEM fields. A major factor impacting students of color is financial resources to pursue a college education, seek and secure relevant work experience, and build a network and community of professional colleagues. Another barrier is connection-bonds with peers facing similar circumstances and life experiences that promote feelings of belonging, relationships with mentors to provide guidance and serve as role models, and linkages to business professionals that open doors to employment. Only 11% of low-income youth earn a bachelor's degree. The lack of diversity in STEM professions presents an opportunity to close the gender and racial wealth gaps. STEM jobs pay more, on average, than non-STEM jobs. 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.

The U.S. needs a long-term, sustainable solution to address inequities and the wealth gap. Our program is keenly focused on removing or mitigating barriers to help young people from underserved communities realize their full potential. A bachelor's degree is the surest path to the middle-class. College graduates have an increased earning potential of up to $1 million over a lifetime - and STEM Advantage Scholars are tracking to earn more than $2 million more in their lifetime post-program. Our holistic program benefits students ("STEM Advantage Scholars"), their families and communities resulting in a generational impact with a clear and immediate path to address the gender and racial wealth gaps. We offer our program to women and underserved communities earning a bachelor's degree in a STEM field at California State University (CSU) campuses in Southern California, including all five CSU campuses in the greater Los Angeles region. The CSU is the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse 4-year public university system. Our program, now in its 11th year with a proven model, 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 and career development to prepare for their job search, and - Community to provide a sense of belonging, support, and opportunities to build their network.

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

We offer our program to STEM students at all 5 CSU campuses in the greater Los Angeles region. 75-80% of CSU students live within 25 miles of their campus after graduation. Scholars are tracking to earn more than $2 million more in their lifetime post-program and say our program is "life-changing" as we empower communities of color with a virtuous cycle: 1) Preparing women and underserved communities for STEM jobs. 2) Scholars earn $75,000 average starting salary, a sustainable middle-class living wage (400% increase over pre-program salary). They can build wealth and buy a home. 3) Alumni "pay it forward" as role models and mentors for younger students, their families and communities. If they can see it, they can be it. 4) Children of alumni will grow-up with an expectation of going to college. 5) This results in a generational impact and clear path to address the gender and racial wealth gaps. Creating financial security and stability for families and redefining the narratives.

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 use quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate and track the success of our program via 1:1 discussion, focus groups and surveys with stakeholders, including Scholars, alumni, mentors, internship partners and campus liaisons, and incorporate learnings to improve our program. "The best thing I have done for my future, by far, was apply for the STEM Advantage program." - Sirena, Computer Science major Los Angeles Business Journal honored STEM Advantage as Diversity, Inclusion + Equity Nonprofit of the Year Impact since founded (2012) - 100% graduation rate - earned a bachelor's degree with persistence in a STEM major - 760 STEM Advantage Scholars - 87% students of color - 72% first-generation college students from low-income families - 52% women - $75,000 average starting salary, a sustainable, middle-class living wage (400% increase over average pre-program salary) - $2.3 million in scholarships awarded - 8500 students served through professional and career development outreach

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

Direct Impact: 1,800

Indirect Impact: 15,000

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

We did not submit a collaborative proposal; however, we collaborate with university campuses, businesses, professional and industry organizations through partnerships and a collective impact model to implement our program. We have a small core team, plus over 200 volunteers (most are STEM professionals) who serve as 1:1 mentors for each Scholar. We partner with over 50 companies, including Accenture, Deloitte, Farmers, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Aerospace Corporation to provide paid internships and entry-level jobs. Professional and industry organizations include Southern California Society for Information Management 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.