The innovative, curriculum-based HBCU Rising initiative uses a three-tiered group mentoring model in which corporate volunteers in STEM-related professions coach college students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who then follow our culturally anchored, STEM curriculum to coach and mentor middle school students. College mentors support teachers in science and math classes and gain valuable hands-on teaching experience and form strong relationships with school staff. The program also provides after-school mentoring and support in addition to the in-school mentoring and services, allowing our cohort of 25-30 college mentors to reach up to 1,200 children per year.
It is the mission of the HBCU Rising to address the gross under-representation of African Americans in our nation’s scientific fields, as Black and Brown children living in poverty have consistently been shut out of high-growth, high-income arenas that require STEM skills. The HBCU Rising provides an interactive and engaging opportunity for economically vulnerable students in low-performing middle schools to increase their competencies in the sciences, critical thinking, communication and social skills. Additionally, as the college mentors assist teachers in their STEM classes, they gain valuable work experience and also provide mentoring to the younger scholars. The in-class, group-mentoring framework deepens and personalizes the instruction multitudes of Black children must have to enter the largest growing economic sector in our nation and the world, and to help ensure that the market demand for technical proficencies in a diverse body of occupations is met as baby boomers retire from the workforce. Finally, as a wider range of industries and occupations are now requiring STEM knowledge and skills, the HBCU Rising affords underserved students with the ability to compete and succeed in any job economy.
Data from our annual, externally led evaluations by Bethune Culture Solutions consistently speak to the success of the HBCU Rising. Key findings show that our middle-school scholars’ interest in STEM fields and careers demonstrate a statistically significant increase, as do indicators pointing to their academic engagement and performance. Data show a 67 percent increase in student in-class attentiveness and participation, and improved academic performance. Additionally, evaluations document key increases for indicators in social and emotional development, citing high percentage increases in future outlook/hope (86%), relationship management (92%), and emotional awareness (93%).
Our program maintains a strong commitment to serve the communities where we work, ensure diversity, and help children prepare for success in school and life. Our college-age mentors develop cherished and sustained relationships with their middle school scholars, who often share the same cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, giving our scholars true-life heroes and role models, who are just a few years their senior. Similarly, our STEM professionals allow our college mentors to visualize the challenges and rewards of STEM careers, preparing them to join the STEM workforce. Younger scholars say they enjoy most how the program “helps me with struggles in life,” and how their mentor “gives me advice to stand where he is standing.”