NSF INCLUDES: Northern New Mexico STEM Mentor Collective
Abstract: We aim to disrupt the multigenerational cycle of poverty in our rural indigenous (18% Native American and 82% Hispanic) community by training our successful college students to serve as role models in our schools. Poverty has led to low educational aspirations and expectations that plague our entire community. As such, its disruption requires a collective effort from our entire community. Our Collective unites two local public colleges, 3 school systems, 2 libraries, 1 museum, 1 national laboratory and four local organizations devoted to youth development. Together we will focus on raising aspirations and expectations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics, for STEM deficiencies among 9th graders place them at risk of dropping out while STEM deficiencies among 11th and 12th graders preclude them from pursuing STEM majors in college and therefore from pursuing well paid STEM careers. We will accomplish this by training, placing, supporting, and assessing the impact of, an indigenous STEM mentor corps of successful undergraduate role models. By changing STEM aspirations and expectations while heightening their own sense of self-efficacy, we expect this corps to replenish itself and so permanently increase the flow of the state's indigenous populations into STEM majors and careers in line with NSF's mission to promote the progress of science while advancing the national health, prosperity and welfare.
Our broader goal is to focus the talents and energies of a diverse collective of community stakeholders on the empowerment of its local college population to address and solve a STEM disparity that bears directly on the community's well-being in a fashion that is generalizable to other marginalized communities. The scope of our project is defined by six tightly coupled new programs: three bringing indigenous STEM mentors to students, one training mentors, one training mentees to value and grow their network of mentors, and one training teachers to partner with us in STEM. The intellectual merit of our project lies not only in its assertion that authentic STEM mentors will exert an outsize influence in their communities while increasing their own sense of self-efficacy, but in the creation and careful application of instruments that assess the factors that determine teens' attitudes, career interests, and behaviors toward a STEM future; and mentors' sense of self development and progress through STEM programs. More precisely, evaluation of the programs has the potential to clarify two important questions about the role of college-age mentors in schools: (1) To what degree is the protege's academic performance and perceived scholastic competence mediated by the mentor's impact on (a) the quality of the protege's parental relationship and (b) the social capital of the allied classroom teacher; (2) To what degree does the quality of the student mentor's relationships with faculty and peers mediate the impact of her serving as mentor on her self-efficacy, academic performance, and leadership skills?
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