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Major Grant to Fund College–High School STEM Partnership

An Upward Bound science class.
An Upward Bound science class.

Thanks to a multi-year grant from the US Department of Education, low- to moderate-income and first-generation college students at four New Hampshire high schools will have access to tutors, educational counselors, and a six-week on-campus summer program at Keene State College – all with a focus on math and science.

“This campus already has a lot of STEM education occurring,” says Kristin Sweeney, who directs Keene State’s TRIO programs – federal programs designed to increase access to higher education for disadvantaged students. The College had two existing TRIO programs, Aspire and Upward Bound, which identify and provide services to students to help them access, persist in, and graduate from college. “It became evident that Keene State was perfectly suited for an Upward Bound Math-Science program,” she says.

Sweeney and Assistant Director for Upward Bound Laura Mielke put together the proposal that landed Keene State a $263,938 grant, renewable each year for five years – contingent on Congressional funding – and will administer and direct the new project.

Starting in January, qualifying students at Conant High School in Jaffrey, ConVal High School in Peterborough, Hillsboro-Deering High School in Hillsboro, and John Stark Regional High School in Weare will have weekly sessions with educational counselors at their high schools and twice-monthly Saturday sessions with tutors at Keene State. The counselors will provide support around career exploration, course selection, study and organizational skills, self-advocacy, college applications, and financial aid. The tutors will offer help with math, science, and English homework.

The students will have opportunities to go on field trips to college fairs, college tours, and leadership retreats. They’ll also have exposure to industry experiences including project-based activities, speakers, facility tours, and mentorship opportunities with people working in STEM fields.

The high school students will converge on Keene State’s campus for a six-week summer residential program. They will take classes to prepare them for the math and science courses they will be enrolled in at their schools in the fall. “They’re getting a jump start, an exposure to the materials, so they’ll be better prepared, more comfortable, and able to challenge themselves in their fall courses,” says Sweeney. “They will also have a chance to connect with faculty at Keene State and gain first-hand experience, skills, and motivation necessary to enter and succeed in a program of postsecondary education that leads to careers in the fields of math and science.”

The Keene State College Upward Bound Math and Science program is based on the College’s existing Upward Bound program, which has a general college preparatory focus, notes Mielke. “We built the math-science component from scratch,” she says, designing services to meet the goals provided by the US Department of Education.

The partnering high schools are busy recruiting students in grades nine through 11 for the program, and Mielke has been hiring staff. The program will have slots for 60 students, all first in their family to complete a four-year college degree and from low and moderate income backgrounds.

With support from the College’s Office of Sponsored Projects and Research and the four school districts, Sweeney and Mielke authored the grant application, which included over 80 pages of materials demonstrating the need for the program, TRIO’s plan for carrying it out, the commitment of the campus, the demographics of the school districts and students, project goals, and an evaluation plan. The US Department of Education received 638 grant applications. The College needed a perfect score to earn a new grant, and was one of 35 new programs selected for funding. Upward Bound Math-Science is now the third Keene State TRIO program.

One hundred percent of the costs of the Keene State College Upward Bound Math and Science program ($263,938) are provided with federal funds via grant #P047M170416 from the US Department of Education.