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

Saturday Science Academy II (SSA II)

Kids study STEM, but they don't usually study STEMM, the "M" being "medicine." Hailing from South L.A. neighborhoods where <10% of residents have bachelor's degrees, TK-12 youth in Saturday Science Academy II will study the building blocks of biomedical sciences and earn their "white coats" in a campus ceremony - attended by state senators! - thanks to CDU student-instructors. 250 students will experience week upon week of creative, unforgettable science experiences, benefitting from enhanced outreach and a new hands-on research component.


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?

South LA

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?

Students in SPA 6 cope with poverty's daily stressors, under-resourced schools, and a lack of options for science study in out-of-school hours. Low test scores reflect these challenges: 84% and 90% of SPA 6 11th-graders did not meet/nearly met standards for the CAASPP in math and California Science Test (CAST), respectively. Students are less competitive/prepared as they advance to college. People of color are underrepresented in STEMM professions. The Health Resources & Services Administration notes this for "Health Diagnosis and Treating Occupations." Per The Pew Charitable Trusts, BIPOC individuals in STEMM tend to be in less well-paid (read: lower status) positions. To increase overall representation and foster culturally competent healthcare in underserved communities, we must fill the pipeline now through programs like SSA II. Communities like Willowbrook, where CDU is sited, would benefit. This area is a federally designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area.

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

SSA II offers youth mentorship, inspiring experiences, and STEMM educational and career roadmaps. A child can take 8-week-long sequences of themed classes (Human Anatomy/Global Health/Earth Science/Biomed Engineering) - fall/winter/spring - all the way from TK-12th grade. When children begin in Pre-K, they have not yet encountered fear or failure. They gain self-confidence and, from there, build STEMM identities. Why does one youth call SSA II the "best place to work on math"? It supplies two elements lacking in school: real-world context and peer support. From a pool of 25 university students, mostly SSA II alumni, come the academically successful and goal-oriented instructors. They look like their students and have similar lived experience. Guided by them, each grade level undertakes distinct hands-on experiments - like extracting DNA from a banana - and studies a different profession. Students sign up for tutoring slots, led by these instructors, to review difficult homework from school. Field trips - most recently to Amgen - extend the learning. Meanwhile, parents take workshops on requested topics like mental health/social media/financial literacy/advocating for one's child and attend field trips. Under Dr. Dulcie Kermah, a biostatistician, SSA II is growing. It is now integrating CDU undergraduate research activities for H.S. students. The program is expanding outreach to Lynwood and Compton USD schools and direct-to-families communication.

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

SSA II represents the future of health equity, with 99% of students identifying as people of color. African Americans are overrepresented relative to the L.A. County population. Right in their home community, low-income youth have ready access to an "elite" program that will: Short-term 1) Increase the number of, and access to, STEMM role models for BIPOC students. 2) Increase/improve students' academic preparation and performance. Long-term 3) Increase BIPOC presence in post-secondary STEMM education programs, institutions, and professions. The new face of L.A. County is people like Dr. Rasheed Ivey, a former SSA II student and CDU alumnus. In his Compton high school, students had to share textbooks. After finishing college, he mentored youth as an SSA II instructor. Suffering setback after setback in his quest to enter medical school, he persevered - a value taught by SSA II - and became the first doctor in his family (and co-founder of the Coalition of Black Men Physicians).

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

SSA II is ambitious. Going beyond the outcome of having 75% increase interest/knowledge of STEMM and careers, we aim for 50% to develop a personal STEMM identity and 30% to apply research methods to their own projects. Throughout, we emphasize literacy because it is vital to grasping concepts. The team gathers data via student/teacher/parent surveys and Next Generation Science Standards-aligned pre-/post-assessments. A CDU student follows up with alumni with whom we are not otherwise still connected. The impact is clear. In 2020-21, 94.5% improved/maintained overall grades and STEMM knowledge. Of alumni surveyed who are undergraduates/college grads, more than two-thirds studied STEMM: Biology/biochem (31.4%); biomedicine (5.7%); nursing/psychology/public health (17%). One young woman began SSA II in 2nd grade and continued for nine years. She studied marine biology; at 16, she screened health fair attendees for conditions. Now in college, she plans to become an ER nurse.

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

Direct Impact: 250

Indirect Impact: 475

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Not applicable.