Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Achievement (MESA), is a college and career prep program for students and schools from predominately underprivileged communities. The program has been promoting the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with 2020 being their fiftieth anniversary. For these past fifty years, MESA has shaped and guided thousands of students, and helped them become successful young and professional adults. MESA programs, from all over California, hold regional preliminary competitions that can take students and the school they participate with, to national competitions.
One of MESA’s Southern California’s preliminary competitions was held at the University of Southern California on Saturday, March 7. The first hour, when arriving at USC, was dedicated to college awareness. Students from high schools and middle schools had the opportunity to talk to a panel of USC students that major in STEM subjects. Participants asked and discussed with the panel on topics such as financial aid, moving away from home, finding your major, credits in university, and the overall obstacles of managing a higher education. The majority of the students in MESA will be the first generations in their families to seek a higher education, and this is why the group focuses on ways to get into colleges and handle the financial aspects of school.
MESA’s goal in promoting STEM is evident in the schedule and events that take place at conferences. This latest USC competition featured events such as: building prosthetic arms, bridges, gliders, and math escape rooms. Each event is a competition that is prepared beforehand. Prosthetic arms are built using different parts, with the main goal being practicality and movement. For bridges, structure is the most important since the objective is to carry the most weight proportional to the bridge’s mass. Gliders are judged on how close they can get to their targets. These competitions are specifically designed to display the students’ abilities in STEM; many competitions also have real world applications, such as building bridges, which focuses on the engineering aspect of STEM (particularly civil engineering). The math escape room is truly an escape room because you cannot leave the lecture hall until the math problems have been solved. MESA competitions are evaluated after they have been demonstrated to the judges. At the end of the day, an awards ceremony is held. Here, students are awarded for the overall design of their entry as well as its practicality.
MESA has truly come a long way in 50 years, with their students being 80% more likely to be accepted into a University of California than the 67% of an average California student. The program continues to grow and reach out to more communities, to the point of becoming nationally recognized in presidential initiatives. MESA has created a huge difference in the lives of many underrepresented individuals, and will continue to help those in need.
Claudia Shin, 8th Grade
Lawrence Middle School