SJSU Summer Tech Academy to Fund Scholarships for High School Students Interested in STEM
The Summer Tech Academy is a four-week program held at SJSU for low-income, rising high school seniors, focusing on enrichment activities dedicated to various STEM topics.
STEM (Science Tech Engineering and Math) careers are highly coveted in the Bay Area, but not everyone who wants one begins with the same advantages. San José State’s Summer Tech Academy hopes to change this. The program, which begins in summer 2024, is a four-week academy held at SJSU for low-income, rising high school seniors, focusing on enrichment activities dedicated to various STEM topics including math, physics, programming and artificial intelligence.
The academy is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), overseen by Jorjeta Jetcheva, assistant professor of computer engineering, and will be led by SJSU faculty. Participants will receive college prep advice from SJSU admissions staff, including help navigating admissions and financial aid processes as well as guidance on how to write essays and fill out application forms. They’ll also have opportunities to interact with industry partners during various activities, including visits to local tech companies. All 20 participants will receive free room and board at SJSU and a $2,000 stipend.
But the academy is only the beginning: Enrolled students will then have the opportunity to apply to SJSU, and if they are accepted into the software engineering, computer engineering or computer science majors, they will be eligible for a second summer enrichment program as well as up to $15,000 a year for up to five years of study at SJSU (based on financial need).
The hope is that this program will encourage students from low-income families in local communities to further their education and move on to lucrative STEM careers.
“Many of these students do not have sufficient information about and access to resources to prepare them for the rigors of a college STEM education, role models in STEM careers, a peer support network, or the financial means to focus on their studies without needing to work,” Jetcheva explains. “We plan to address all of these challenges in order to provide our low-income students with real opportunities to succeed both personally and professionally.”
Opportunities for the community
In preparation for the program, Jetcheva’s team has reached out to schools in the community, including Yerba Buena High School in East San José. Jonathan Trinh, who teaches math and AP computer science, is excited by the prospects the program may bring.
He recently helped facilitate a Career Day event at Yerba Buena High featuring SJSU computer engineering and materials information science professors, and is eager to become even more involved as the program launches.
“For too long, the gains from Silicon Valley haven’t been realized by our students and communities,” he explains. “I’m glad we’re building pipelines so our students can take advantage of their proximity to tech rather than just dealing with gentrification and the higher cost of living. I joined education to break down these barriers and build more pathways to socioeconomic mobility.”
Quynh Mai, ‘92 Management Information Systems, a Yerba Buena High School parent who organized the Career Day event, agrees. “YBHS is located in an underserved area, and our student population is about 50% Asian and 50% Hispanic,” she says. “Our students typically do not come from families with parents working in high tech.”
Her Career Day event was part of a larger mission to “sow the seeds in our students’ minds that anything is possible and inspire them to consider a wide range of career paths.”
Mai believes that the Summer Tech Academy can also help further this mission. She calls it “a game changer for our students, giving them exposure to industry experts and the opportunity to explore.” She wants the academy to “fire up our students’ curiosity about computer technologies and their many interesting applications, and hopefully inspire them to choose to study technology at SJSU.”
She adds, “I hope the Summer Tech Academy can create opportunities and confidence for our would-be first generation college students, male and female, to pursue technology fields, blazing new trails for themselves and their families.”
Trinh echoes her big dreams for the program. “This is a tremendous and novel opportunity for my students,” he says. “Programs like these increase the equality of opportunity for students who otherwise would not have access to tech and career exploration. My hope is for this to lead to even more opportunities down the road.”