BEAM Summer STEM Programs
Access to high-quality, affordable STEM enrichment opportunities are virtually nonexistent for low-income and historically marginalized students. BEAM provides these opportunities from 7th grade through college so students can reach their potential and realize their STEM dreams. This grant will support our foundational programs: Discovery, a 5-week camp for rising 7th graders where students explore advanced math, and Summer Away, a 3-week residential program for rising 8th graders where students learn college-level math and build community.
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?
BEAM addresses a largely unrecognized problem: while students from affluent communities have access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities, students from low-income and historically marginalized communities have few such opportunities, both in and out of school. Indeed, Black, Latinx, and low-income students often attend high schools that don't even offer calculus, which is a necessary prerequisite for STEM success in college. In college, Black and Latinx students declare STEM majors at the same rate as their white and Asian peers, but too often find themselves unprepared for the rigors of a STEM major and unsupported by their colleges. As a result, many more Black and Latinx students switch from STEM majors or leave college altogether. It's no surprise, then, that even students with high interest and potential in STEM are shut out of opportunities for rewarding and influential STEM careers, with negative consequences for themselves, their families and communities, and society.
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 success in STEM. Our pathway begins with our summer programs, which reach students at a young age and build their interest and skills at a critical point in their STEM journeys. BEAM Discovery, a 5-week summer program for rising 7th graders, fosters a love of math and builds community. At Discovery, 100 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 prizes). 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 students can apply to BEAM Summer Away, a 3-week residential summer program on a college campus for 40 rising 8th graders. At Summer Away, students do advanced math that others might not study until college (like number theory or combinatorics) and build lifelong friendships. They do 7 hours of math a day, take field trips, talk with mathematicians, and even learn to do their own laundry. For many students, it's their first time away from home. It's a critical exposure to advanced mathematics that allows students to envision a future in STEM. Our programs are free to students.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
There is a scarcity of resources for high-achieving STEM students in Los Angeles County-particularly for students from under-resourced communities. 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 or explore advanced math. BEAM is a one-of-a-kind program in Los Angeles County: not only do we offer students summer STEM programming, but we also provide the opportunity to access 10 years of support to ensure STEM success. Our vision is that BEAM will create cohorts of LA students who are prepared to succeed in STEM. 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 transform individuals, families, and entire communities. To meet the need in LA, we plan to grow to serve 50% more students over the next three years.
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, persistence on difficult problems, and math interest. We measure mathematical growth using pre- and post-tests. We measure students' mathematical stamina and interest via student surveys. In a recent comparison study, we found that BEAM students were 50% more likely to major in STEM and 500% more likely to major in math and statistics than a comparison group of students (who were accepted but did not attend or were waitlisted). Each summer, with BEAM's support, our high school students attend rigorous summer STEM programs. Last summer, LA students attended Canada/USA Mathcamp, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth programs, Pomona College Academy for Youth Success, All Star Code, Summer Multicultural Engineering Training, Brown University Pre-College program, and more.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 160
Indirect Impact: 2,400