Exciting STEM Programs at Holyoke Community College!

At Holyoke Community College, we offer two
exciting opportunities designed for students who are interested in science, technology,
engineering, and math, also known as STEM. These two programs are the STEM Starter Academy
and the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship Program. Both programs are intended to recruit and
retain talented STEM students from diverse backgrounds and help them achieve their goal
of entering a STEM-related career. The STEM Starter Academy, also known as the
SSA, covers the cost of some STEM classes, offers peer mentoring and career advising,
and provides a series of speakers and field trips to help SSA students obtain a comprehensive
understanding of STEM disciplines and industries. This program is funded by a grant from the
Department of Higher Education. The NSF STEM Scholars Program is funded by
the prestigious National Science Foundation. It is a competitive program which offers scholarships
to students in STEM and provides rigorous, interdisciplinary exploration of STEM disciplines. Students who enter the program are known as
STEM Scholars, and may receive as much as $5,200 per year in scholarships. Students in this program come from all areas
of STEM, and are very diverse. STEM Scholars attend special seminars and
work as STEM Ambassadors either by volunteering as mentors, or by doing outreach or community
service. There are also opportunities for internships
and introductions to guest speakers to help students make connections with transfer schools
and industry leaders. The programs support each other in natural
ways. For example, students can get a head start
in the summer by taking a free course through the SSA and apply for the NSF STEM Scholars
Program, and then later as a scholar they can either mentor SSA students as part of
a community service project or they can work for the SSA. These two programs are designed to help students
who may not otherwise see themselves as future scientists to begin to envision themselves
as such. Students who have successfully completed these
programs have gone on to complete degrees in STEM disciplines. Many of these students are already working
in STEM-related industries as they continue their studies! The NSF STEM Scholars Program and STEM Starter
Academy have created a collaborative and supportive community of students and leaders in STEM. We know you’ll enjoy hearing their stories! My name is Kaishla Cabrera. I started at HCC in 2015 right out of Holyoke
High School. I became part of NSF when it started, which
was also at 2015. My major is chemistry. I graduated class of ’17 from here. I was able to get a Mass Transfer to UMass,
so I was at UMass Amherst for a semester and then I transferred to Elms College where I
graduated class of ’19 with my bachelors in chemistry as well. When we started mentoring, I believe that
was around my second year there, I thought it was really good, like, I got a pretty chill
mentee. Like, even til today we still talk outside
of school. So I think that was like a really good thing,
’cause you made connections with other people who are in STEM that like probably aren’t as represented as much, because that’s basically what NSF is. Being a STEM Scholar/NSF Scholar has really
opened up a lot of opportunities as far as meeting new people, finding new experiences. Like I’ve been able to find internship opportunities,
I’ve been able to connect with people even if it’s just to like visit a plant that they’re
working at or to be in a lab even if it’s just for a day, as well as meeting other people. I got into science from my sixth grade science
professor. She also happens to be Hispanic, which was
like to me, a big deal because like all my teachers previous before that weren’t teachers
of color, so like — and they were male. So like to see a woman as like a STEM teacher
or just to see a woman in a STEM field is like a really big thing. To see someone of color who is also a woman
in that field, it’s just like, wow, like you were able to make it and you’re like, kind
of like me. That kind of like, gives me a sense of belonging,
like maybe I can do this. The more representation we have for STEM,
the bigger the community can get. Being part of this STEM community has impacted
me a lot. It was more like a family than like just a
group of students, so to speak. My name’s Bill Pennington. I’m a civil engineering major. I got involved with the scholarship because
school is expensive, and I looked for any sort of funding I could find. It was work, but I didn’t really find it to
be a chore, and I did find it worthwhile overall, and it really did help me build community
with my peers and the professors that were involved — and even professors that aren’t
involved, it has a level of caché on campus that sort of garners some respect and opens
up other opportunities as well. It just makes it possible, being an adult
student — it’s daunting and intimidating to just not have income for a period of time. The money from the scholarship is huge and
I think it enables a lot of people to go down this path that might not be able to at all
otherwise. It really does create a community where, you
know, if you’re intimidated about going to college or coming back to school, as I was,
you’ve already got a network of people there that are invested in your success. Being supported in that way is huge and very,
very meaningful. My name is Noah Paradis-Burnett. I am a 2017 graduate of Holyoke Community
College with a degree in engineering studies and currently I am pursuing my bachelors of
science for mechanical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The experience overall for me really gave
me a look into how — really how important my field was. It helped me to sort of accelerate my academic
journey so instead of having to take these classes during like either the fall or the
spring semester and just piling all those courses on top of one another, it sort of
gave me a chance to breathe, really take in the material. And now that I’m at UMass, it really helped
to cut down on the number of courses that I actually need to take so that I can focus
more on what it is that I want to do. For me, the thing about the STEM Scholars
that really connected with me is the sense of community that I don’t think you really
get at other institutions with their STEM programs ’cause I feel like in those programs,
you’re part of a — you know, just a set of students all pursuing the same major. But with a program like the STEM Scholars,
you really connect with the — and not just those in your specific discipline, but all
across different STEM disciplines. And I feel like that connection really helped
me to you know sort of discover my own identity within STEM. Like I’m not just a face among many just pursuing
a major; I’m actually an individual with specific interests, with specific goals, and I feel
like that sense of community really helped to shape that. My name is Michelle Rame. I am an HCC alum, also an NSF Scholar alum. I graduated Holyoke Community College in 2017
in mechanical engineering. I worked for STEM Starter Academy for probably
three years — most of the time that I was here at HCC. I did a lot of collaboration in the beginning
between NSF Scholars and STEM Starter Academy students. We set up workshops where we did mentoring
programs where students could learn about like being successful, the resources that
HCC has to offer. At STEM Starter Academy, we started this group
Pioneer Valley Women in STEM, so we hosted a lot of events that helped women find resources
to help them be successful with their STEM degree choices. I was the first student to complete all developmental
courses in one semester. I became an NSF Scholar, and when I became
an NSF Scholar, and I started helping that program, I got introduced to the STEM Starter
Academy, and there was like this really organic relationship being built between STEM Starter
Academy students and NSF students because it was like entry-level students coming in,
first semester college students coming in. And we were like, guiding them through this
path into becoming STEM Scholars. I consider myself to be like an advocate for
women and minorities in STEM, so I always said I was a STEM ambassador. And so coming from NSF, mentoring was really
important and so I felt like I really found my place like being a part of STEM Starter
Academy and kind of like helping create these mentoring roles and like continue this
organic relationship between them. When I switched into this major and started
NSF, it was like this community erupted around me. It was like my second family. Like everybody relied on everybody, you know,
there was support everywhere I went. And even advisors and the teachers, like I
have never — they are literally my second family, they have done so much for me and
I feel like I owe a lot of my success and like where I am now to NSF and to HCC in general.

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