to STEP In the News
STEP Gives Students
a Lift at Barnard
May / June, 2017, New York, NY
For the past three decade, the Barnard College Science and
Technology Entry Program, known as STEP, has been helping
students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged
communities find their footing in the world of STEM and licensed
professions. Designed for students in seventh through twelfth
grade, STEP gives middle and high schoolers the opportunity
to take exciting enrichment courses at institutions of higher
learning with the intention of exposing them to post-high
school possibilities and career options. In addition, Barnard
also offers CSTEP, which is the Collegiate Science and Technology
Enrichment Program which prepares students for professional
licensure or careers in the scientific, technical including
social work, law, teaching or health-related fields. STEP
is funded by the New York State Education Department (NYSED)
as well as by Barnard College.
The program at Barnard, which runs through the academic year
as well as through the summer, offers a diverse array of electives;
Urban Farming, Intro to Business, Culinary Arts, Forensic
Science, Biotech, Game Design and Film Analysis. “We
try to provide the very intensive science based courses but
also provide some liberal arts and humanities courses since
we are at a liberal arts institution after all,” said
Associate Director JC Soto, adding that providing liberal
arts courses is helpful to those students who will surely
take some like electives along with their sciences courses
when they attend college.
The courses are particularly hands-on and interactive. For
example, Biotech classes take place in a Biology Lab at Barnard
and the Urban Farming class visits the campus Greenhouse for
activities. In addition, students go on weekly field trips
to educational locales across the city.
13-year-old student Luca Maiorino, who has been part of STEP
since the last academic school year, chose to take Intro to
Business and his favorite class, Urban Farming. “In
my Urban Farming class we are building things, making planters,
planting a lot and making 3-d models,” he said, adding
that in his business class he and his classmates are learning
coding and creating websites using basic HTML and CSS.
Roughly 100 students attend STEP throughout the year though
the classes are kept small. For example, the summer program
included around 30 students with 6-7 students in each class.
The classes are taught by instructors with the support of
Teacher’s Assistants from Barnard and Columbia who are
there to “support the students, help flush out ideas
and assist them with projects or questions they may have.”
In order to be accepted to STEP, students must go through
the application process and show that they are either members
of historically underrepresented community or disadvantaged
according to NYSED. Partnerships with certain New York City
schools and special recruiting events also contribute to some
acceptances. The student body of STEP is incredibly diverse;
a fact Soto is particularly proud of. “We have a very
diverse group of students. This diversity is important because
when they go off to a college campus they are going to have
a very diverse experience there,” he said.
STEP has shown to be a successful operation. Just this past
school year, graduates went on to attend various well-respected
institutions including three students who went on to Barnard.
Others went on to participate in enriching internships such
as at the American Museum of Natural History. Luca can personally
attest to how STEP has changed his trajectory for the better.
“STEP is a great help. I came from a school that was
more focused on social and emotional skills rather than academics
and my grades were not the best. I was a bit behind…
but then I went to STEP and now my grades are all A’s!
It’s made a terrific difference,” he said proudly.
STEP has made big differences despite its small size on the
back end. “For a small department we do a lot,”
said Soto. The STEP department consists of just three people,
assisted by a few administrators from other Barnard offices
who manage the many students, TA’s and instructors.
“We are able to do this work because of the passion
and dedication we have for our students,” he added.
Source: Education Update Website:
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