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CSTEP: Breaking down barriers

The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program began at Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s in fall 2015. CSTEP has grown to include 120 students, two professional staff members, and two professional tutors. The program helps break down the barriers that may prevent students in STEM related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) from being successful. CSTEP provides tutoring five days a week, access to technology, free printing, connections to internships, and professional development. Some of the professional development opportunities include job shadowing, student and professional conferences, training and workshops.

Jarisa Escalente is one of our outstanding CSTEP students. She is a freshmen working on an Associates of Science degree in Health Sciences.  She is involved with all the opportunities CSTEP has to offer and is an active member of the campus community.  According to Jarisa, “I plan on graduating from FM and then transfer to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Eventually I would like to earn a Doctorate degree and become a surgeon.”

One way CSTEP tries to break down barriers is to provide incoming students with the opportunity to take part in a Summer Bridge program. Summer Bridge is a week long experience that helps students acclimate to campus life. Jarisa was one such participant.  She says, “I attended CSTEP’s Summer Bridge program prior to my first semester at FM. The program helped me overcome my fear of going away to college. I was able to get to know staff, campus resources, and was introduced to college life. After seeing the opportunities that existed within FM I was able to convince my brother to attend the college as well.”

In an effort to promote STEM career awareness and expose young students to the possibilities of science, CSTEP provides a Day of Service where CSTEP students volunteer at an elementary/middle school to perform science experiments.  The CSTEP volunteers have the opportunity to pass along their love of science to the future generations and the elementary/middle school students get to interact with college students, faculty, and staff. For the second year in a row, Mayfield Elementary School partnered with CSTEP to provide this experience for their students.

Ten FM volunteers from CSTEP brought the materials to the school and showed over 250 students how to make lava lamps; Jarisa was one of those volunteers.  “I decided to volunteer because I wanted to teach young students how fun learning can be,” she says.  “It’s important to expose young students to STEM because they can learn about the variety of career options.  It involves lots of hands-on activities that can keep kids engaged and interested in learning.”

CSTEP immerses itself in the campus community but also reaches out to the surrounding communities to promote STEM related activities and events.  Having such a resource on campus has helped connect students like Jarisa to the campus, increasing their chance of success both as a student and as a future surgeon.

CSTEP, a New York State Department of Education grant program, is a response to a pervasively low number of students from under-represented groups who are pursuing professional licensure and careers in mathematics, science, technology and health-related fields.

To learn more about FM’s CSTEP Program, contact Project Director Lourdes Thebaud at (518) 736-FMCC (3622), ext. 8153.

Michelle Moore is an academic advisor for CSTEP at FM.

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