If it is summertime at Loyola Marymount University, it must be time for SECOP, the school’s innovative Science and Engineering Community Outreach Program, designed to woo inner-city minority and first-generation college aspirants, and get them to fall in love with science and technology.
In 10 years, 219 students from 72 high schools have been through the hybrid academic boot camp and college-lifestyle seminar that gives gifted high school students an opportunity to envision studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. The goal of SECOP is to address the shortage of African-American, Latino, Native American and female students pursuing these subjects by introducing them to engineering and advanced mathematics classes during their high school years. The students get academic enrichment, SAT coaching, access to training and computer programs, career and college counseling, as well as a look at college life for them and their parents.
This year, 16 students from Southern California – the bulk from the Los Angeles area – will attend the two-week program, where students will live in dorms and taste campus life.
The program has had great success: 99 percent of SECOP high school graduates go on to graduate college; 65 percent major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. It is hosted and taught by faculty from the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering on the LMU campus from July 4 to 16. LMU undergraduates act as mentors.
Leslie Wall ’07 attended when she was a student at Chino High School. Today, she is an engineer for the city of Los Angeles. “I knew I liked math and science, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study in college or do for a career,” Wall said. “SECOP really opened my eyes to engineering, and showed me what college would be all about.”
The program costs $2,200 per student, but students attend free. The would-be scientists are recruited through a partnership between Seaver College and local academic intervention programs: Young Black Scholars, College Bound and More MOSTE, an outreach program for young women. SECOP is supported by grants from Vought Aircraft (Hawthorne), Crail-Johnson Foundation (San Pedro), Boeing, Collision & Injury Dynamics (El Segundo) and ACT Lab (El Segundo).
The program works because it puts the students in the field and in labs with professors and they do hands on work, said Barbara A. Christie, an adjunct professor of natural science, who directs the program. “We use real lab tools and the students, for instance, design their own small car while learning the math behind what makes it work. We step away from the traditional high school curriculum. We give them a pre-college experience. For two weeks, they have an opportunity to see and to feel what it would be like to attend college and learn.”