Empowering Youth Through Education

Fulfillment Fund STEM Programs Aim to Narrow the Science Achievement Gap Among Students of Color

With Latinos and African Americans making up less than five percent of the science and technology workforce in the U.S. today, several Fulfillment Fund programs are exposing students to studies and future careers in high-demand STEM fields.

By Abel Solorio

At a time when Latinos and African Americans make up an estimated five percent or less of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce, the Fulfillment Fund has launched several after-school enrichment programs designed to provide students with hands-on, real-life exposure to STEM fields of study and careers.

Some of the Fulfillment Fund’s afterschool enrichment programs designed to encourage students to explore STEM fields are the result of collaborative partnerships between the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), UCLA, Crescent Solutions, the Microsoft Store, CoderDojo and other agencies.

Throughout a six-session STEM program this past year, a group of Fulfillment Fund students learned to code their own websites, program electronic circuit boards, and develop Internet-based inventions to present as potential business opportunities. Evelin Carrillo, a senior at Hamilton High School, devised an application that would categorize the clothes in one’s wardrobe and minimize outfit duplications.

At UCLA, students were exposed to state-of-the-art technology, including the da Vinci Surgical System that makes it possible for surgeons to perform procedures on patients remotely, thus allowing specialists in one state or country to save lives in others. Students had the opportunity to use models of the tools to experience what is like to maneuver the surgical instruments.

Inspiring an Interest in the Sciences

The program's benefits for students extended even beyond the spring. Jamiree Harrison, a senior at Hamilton High School, landed a summer internship at UCLA where he worked closely with a researcher who is focused on developing alternative treatment methods for prostate cancer.

“I was able to get first-hand experience in coding, three-dimensional design, and clinical research,” says Harrison, who is currently applying to colleges. “The internship at UCLA allowed me to see what it is like to be a biomedical engineer.”

Indra Hernandez, another STEM program participant who recently graduated from Hamilton High School, said she was excited to have the chance to dive deeper into science and interact directly with research professionals: “I never thought I would actually be inside UCLA’s labs,” she said.

This fall, Hernandez is attending UCLA and has declared biology as her major.

Abel Solorio is the Associate Director of the Fulfillment Fund’s College Access Program.