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From left, Carlos Campoverde from Berkshire Community College and Randy Amadis from Holyoke
Community College collect a salamander during MCLA professor Dr. Dan Shustack’s lab in “Terrestrial
Salamander Monitoring.” 

413 STEM Ready Academy prepares community college students for bachelor’s programs

07/29/15

This week, a group of community college students from throughout the region is finding out what life at a four-year college is like as they anticipate pursuing a bachelor’s degree in one of the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

C:\fakepath\413 STEMcomputer crop.jpgIt’s the second year that MCLA has hosted “413 STEM Ready Academy,” an intensive, summer residency program that gives students who are working on associate’s degrees some insight into what it would be like to continue their education beyond the two-year institution they attend.

According to Fiona McKenna Lowry, a Greenfield Community College participating in this week’s five-day program along with her sister, Bridget, 413 STEM Ready Academy is an “awesome” program for community college students with an interest in, and passion for, STEM.

“The 413 STEM Academy is a truly fantastic experience,” Fiona Lowry said. “The staff and professors are knowledgeable, inspiring and encouraging.”

In addition to Fiona and Bridget, five other Greenfield Community College students are participating in this week’s program at MCLA. They are joined by seven students from Holyoke Community College and eight from Berkshire Community College.

“I’m having a blast, meeting great new people and making connections,” said Sebastian Zapata, who attends Berkshire Community College. “I have learned so much within the past two days alone, and there is still so much to experience.”

According to Mary Nash, co-coordinator of the 413 STEM Ready Academy along with Jennifer Swoap, assistant director of the Center for Learning in Actions at Williams College, the program offers participants an opportunity to experience residential college life while they receive academic preparation and experience various components of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

“We hope they’ll continue their education after they finish their two-year degree,” Nash said. “The idea is to bring colleges together from Western Massachusetts and have participants see the benefits of a four-year education in a STEM field, and all that they can do with it for their career.”

In addition to attending classes and labs, activities are focusing on preparation for success in completing a bachelor’s degree in one of the STEM fields, including career exploration, building leadership and resume skills, as well as college and career planning through workshops, presentations and field trips.

Tuesday’s activities included a STEM Professional Roundtable, where students spoke with and learned from STEM professionals from throughout the Berkshires, including Robert K. Halhotra and Joao Baiense of General Dynamics, and Dr. Christopher Himes, STEM program manager and the Evelyn H. and the Arlindo Jorge Endowed Chair in MCLA's Education Department.

“STEM Academy has been an excellent program,” said Holyoke Community College student Bilal Ahmed.  “I highly encourage anyone who is looking to experience real-life situations in their given academic field to attend. It truly is a life-changing experience.”

Top right, Sam Weaver, left, who attends Greenfield Community College, uses a microscope at Williams College in a lab with instructor Janice Bravo.

Below, from left, program participant Guinevere Vanhorne, a recent graduate of Greenfield Community College who wants to become a physician’s assistant, will continue her education in the fall at Smith College; Francis Laflamme, a 413 STEM Fellow and graduate of Holyoke Community College attends Westfield State University where he majors in math; and Gabriana Brooks, a biology student at Berkshire Community College.

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