Presentation #516.03 in the session Education and Outreach (iPosters).
The University of Southern California (USC) is an affluent private university nestled amongst neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area that contain some of the highest numbers of households beneath the poverty level (American Census Survey Data, 2013-2017). The Young Researchers Program (YRP) was created to build up the surrounding community with the resources available at USC. YRP’s mission is to increase the representation and retention of students in STEM that are historically underrepresented. To achieve this, YRP recruits students from local high schools who are rising seniors to apply for the program. If selected, they are invited to USC for the summer where they are partnered with a graduate student mentor to complete a six-week research experience, in addition to seminars and workshops focused on college applications and preparation. Each student and mentor receives a small stipend and we address any obstacle that limits a student’s participation (e.g., providing public transit fare cards, loaning laptops while on campus). Most students are the first generation to go to college, many are immigrants or the children of immigrants, and for some, English is not their first language. In other words, this student population is representative of many voices that are often missing in STEM. We target students from schools that lack science programming altogether, for example, because they lack lab classroom space or teachers qualified to instruct on lab-based sciences. This year, we had nine students participate across multiple fields within STEM (geochemistry, neuroscience, environmental engineering, etc.). We present an outline of our program, how it could possibly be mirrored at other institutions, and student testimonies about the impact of the program. We are very grateful to the DPS Education & Outreach Subcommittee for awarding YRP a grant this calendar year to aid in our mission.