The Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) is wrapping up its summer portion of a multi-year program to prepare incoming ninth graders to STEM fields.
Faith Fells is the site director of SMASH Detroit at Wayne State. She says the program uses culturally competent mentorship and curriculum to prepare students to get through unique hurdles, some of who may be first-generation minority college students.
“SMASH really is a complete front-to-end STEM preparation program. We are trying to prepare young people for college and careers in STEM,” she says.
Fells was a former high school student who saw there was a gap between students having resources or classes in science to having opportunities in STEM. That’s why she later joined SMASH Detroit. The program takes in ninth-grade students, offering monthly and summer mentorship programs throughout high school and beyond. Students learn skills and have networking opportunities.
Fells says SMASH aims to help students students who fall off the “leaky tech pipeline,” sometimes due to unique circumstances.
“Our scholars … have just as much interest as just as much promise just as much potential as many other young people,” Fells says. “However, they are dropping out of this pipeline to get into STEM careers … for many reasons.”
The program offers opportunities to minority students, many of who may be first-generation college students and often face barriers to education. Fells says this ranges from not having resources or support in high school, not having mentors, or not having internships lined up.
“We want to make sure that through this pipeline to get to those STEM careers they’re not dropping out because they don’t have those resources.”
She says the program teaches students through a social justice lens, so students can find solutions they see around them in their community.
“We like to think that with a more diversified tech workforce or STEM workforce, we will also have some more solutions to issues.”
She says that work makes SMASH Detroit stand out.
“We definitely put an emphasis on social justice and advocacy … it’s not just about going into STEM … but also how can you use that stem awareness, that background, that knowledge base to also be an advocate for your community.”
The program will take new applicants who are incoming high school freshmen starting in November. Fells says that’s the only time students can apply online. There’s also assistance available to fill out the application.