PITTSBURG -- The path for some local low-income students interested in pursuing science, engineering and technology careers became a bit less treacherous this week.

Los Medanos College received a five-year, $625,600 grant from the National Science Foundation, which will allow the East Contra Costa community college to establish a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, scholars program.

Starting next fall, the program will fund 116 full scholarships, each between $3,000 and $5,000 annually, for 50 to 65 students, according to a college news release.

The money will help the students cover expenses such as rent, books and supplies and other living costs, said Carol Hernandez, the program's creator.

"Being a STEM major is really demanding already, so then if you add financial part of life, it can overpower everything. A lot of promising students find themselves struggling to put in the time necessary," added Jeanne Bonner, a physics professor and program's co-creator. "The scholarships will allow them to concentrate on their goals."

Both Bonner and Hernandez lead an existing Los Medanos program for math, engineering and science achievement, or MESA. That program will provide some help in getting the STEM Scholars Program off the ground.

According to a science foundation spokeswoman, about 80 to 100 of the S-STEM grants were given out to schools around the country, so Los Medanos had to make a compelling case it would produce results.

The goal of the STEM scholars program is to increase the number of traditionally underserved, low-income students who obtain STEM degrees, transfer to four-year universities as STEM majors, and launch into successful STEM careers.

Los Medanos officials will spend the first year working to start up the program, including developing resources, supplies, policies and procedures, and recruitment activities.

The following four years will include awarding roughly 25 scholarships to Los Medanos students. On top of that, Los Medanos plans to award five scholarships in each of the final three years of the grant to scholars who transfer to four-year universities as STEM majors.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

More information
Los Medanos STEM students are pursuing an associate of science degree or bachelor of science transfer path, majoring in one or more of the following calculus-based STEM programs: biological sciences, computer sciences, engineering, mathematical sciences or physical sciences.
To learn more about the STEM Scholars Program, visit www.losmedanos.edu/stem or contact Carol Hernandez at 925-439-2181, ext. 3437.