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$2.5 Million Grant to Strengthen Pipeline for Engineering and Computer Science Careers

Piper Zimmerman, Kayla Shirley and Divya Ramanand from University Prep High School create a flash light from a battery, foil and tape as part of Y.E.S.! Program put on by the Cal Poly Pomona Society of Women Engineers.

A group of local school districts, community colleges and Cal Poly Pomona are the recipients of a $2.5 million grant to prepare more underrepresented students to complete college degrees and find careers in engineering and computer science.

The grant comes from the L.A. Region K-16 Collaborative, convened by the nonprofit UNITE-LA, and focuses on closing racial and gender gaps in postsecondary education and building equitable pathways to careers in healthcare, engineering and computer science across Los Angeles County. Pomona Unified School District (PUSD), Citrus College, Mt. San Antonio College, and CPP will work together to serve students in the East L.A. County subregion and increase access, retention and completion in the engineering and computer science fields.

"Cal Poly Pomona is thrilled to receive this grant and continue our strong partnerships with PUSD, Citrus College and Mt. SAC," said Terri Gomez, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. "The work we will do to prepare more underrepresented minority and women in these fields will be transformational for both our students and our communities."

The group will work together on expanding early outreach, parent and family engagement; developing holistic transfer pathways; and providing workforce learning opportunities to launch students into family-sustaining careers. Through 2026, the group will work together to get more PUSD students to take advantage of Citrus and Mt. SAC offerings and provide the technology and software students will need to be successful. The funding will also help students learn about STEM careers and programs through campus visits.

"The higher education research and our own data shows that students who are able to earn college-level credit while still in high school persist at a higher rate than those who do not," said Cecilia Santiago-González, assistant vice president of strategic initiatives for student success, who is one of CPP's leaders on the grant. "We are proud to collaborate with our local school district and community colleges on this crucial work."

CPP is well-suited to take on the challenges the collaborative has outlined. Project CAMINOS works to cultivate a college-going culture in local schools. The PolyTransfer team regularly collaborates with local community colleges on summer academies, other grant projects and current student programming. The College of Engineering's Maximizing Engineering Potential (MEP) and Women in Science & Engineering (WiSE) offers the Femineer Program and STEM First-Year Experience events, and their faculty offer opportunities to engage with research and major exploration early and often.

Lily Gossage, director of MEP and WiSE, says that preparing for a career in the STEM fields requires more than classroom learning.

"Our first-year STEM support program provides essential skills, tutoring/supplemental instruction, industry engagement events, professional socialization, and a strong peer network," Gossage says. "Our Femineer K-12 outreach program inspires students to pursue STEM in their education and career. Overall, our cradle-to-career model creates a sense of belonging for students, especially for those who continue to be under-represented in many of the STEM fields. We look forward to developing new and lasting partnerships through this regional collaborative."

Learn more about the other subregions on the K-16 Collaborative website.