UH STEM RISE Addresses Opportunity Gaps for High School Students in Third Ward

Program Offers Learning Advantages to Third Ward High School Students

A partnership between the Third Ward community and the University of Houston is providing opportunities for high school students to gain exposure to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research. That’s the goal of UH’s STEM Research Inquiry Summer Experience (STEM RISE).

STEM RISE Students
Students from Jack Yates High School take part in the University of Houston’s STEM Research Inquiry Summer Experience (STEM RISE) program. UH undergraduates and medical students also gain beneficial skills as mentors in the program.

A Collaboration for Success

STEM RISE is a collaborative effort between the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, NSM’s teachHOUSTON STEM teacher preparation program, the UH Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine and Jack Yates High School in Houston’s Third Ward.

“We are aware that students of color are underrepresented and underestimated in terms of their potential when it comes to pursuing STEM degrees and STEM careers,” said Mariam Manuel, director of STEM RISE Student Success and clinical assistant professor for the teachHOUSTON program. “One way to combat that is through STEM RISE’s nurturing environment in a STEM research setting.”

The program is open to all students at Yates and takes place over the summer, allowing students to attend six weeks of classes geared exclusively to STEM RISE participants and to gain experience in research labs at UH.

UH STEM majors and medical students act as near-peer mentors for the high school students. The Yates students who participated in 2022 said giving up their summer was worth the knowledge they gained.

“You’re learning new things that other kids are missing out on,” said Zander Harris, who is currently a senior at Yates High School. “You’re getting a step ahead of your peers.”

Path to a STEM Career

Myia Andrews appreciated how her experience with STEM RISE was not just enjoyable, but also presented valuable opportunities for future growth. “Students are gaining crucial experience while having fun,” said Andrews, a junior at Yates High School.

STEM RISE Students
Students from Jack Yates High School collaborate on a project during the STEM RISE program at UH. The program, held during the summer, offers students opportunities to excel in STEM.

Other students noted the career training aspect of the program. “It provided me with a great learning experience by allowing me to interact with college students who are already getting the training they need for a STEM career,” said Jada Preston, a junior at Yates High School.

Training Benefits and Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

While high school students benefit from exposure to new STEM concepts, the program also offers advantages for UH undergraduates through coursework and research lab experiences.

“The research methods course allows our undergraduates to create STEM-based lessons that will be useful to our Jack Yates partners in the lab,” said Jacqueline Ekeoba, director of STEM RISE Instruction and lecturer/STEM master teacher for the teachHOUSTON program.

This work to create STEM lessons gives UH teachHOUSTON students, who are STEM majors, valuable experience as they prepare for a career teaching secondary math and science.

Plans for 2023

STEM RISE is building upon its success as it enters 2023. The program will have a more intentional focus on connecting high school mentees with UH STEM faculty role models. The high school students will be able to interview and connect with the faculty mentees during the program.

This summer, STEM RISE will increase participation to 10 students from Yates High School. Recruitment begins in March 2023. The program will also include up to 16 UH STEM undergraduates and six medical students.

The Summer 2023 STEM RISE program is slated for June 5-July 28, 2023.

Working Together for One Goal

STEM RISE was honored with the 2022 Stand Up for STEM Educational Organization Award from the Texas Girls Collaborative Project for advancing women and girls in STEM.

In 2023, the program will build upon partnerships with Houston’s Third Ward community, and strengthen the layered mentorship between high school students, undergraduates and medical students.

The STEM RISE program is made possible through funding from the National Science Foundation, as well as private funding from UH alumni and community partners.

- Chris Guillory, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics