The STEM Academy is a dual enrollment educational program for high school students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Math (STEM). Students take a full-time schedule of college classes at Madison College over 11th and 12th grade, where their college coursework also translates to high school credits, at no cost to them or their families. A key objective of this program is to address participation gaps in STEM careers for students from under-represented demographics, including: socioeconomic status, first generation to attend college, race or ethnicity, and gender.
The first year featured a class of 26 students from Madison Metropolitan School District. The second class, which started this week, includes 101 MMSD students and 18 Sun Prairie students! The incoming STEM Academy is attending the Goodman South Campus.
We spoke to two students, Armon and Sydney, who are in the pilot group. They shared their experiences below.
Armon wasn’t sure that he’d be able to go to college, but now, just entering his senior year, is on track to graduate from the STEM Academy with his High School degree and his Associates in Computer Science! Now his dream to earn his bachelor’s degree in computer science, is a next step, not a daunting hurdle.
Armon first heard about the STEM Academy from his principals who thought he’d be a good fit, and he was. Unlike the day-to-day of a high school environment, Armon appreciates the maturity of the students and respect with which instructors talk to him at Madison College “It feels like they see me as someone who was a peer to them.” And he, like most of his peers in the first cohort of students, has excelled academically.
It’s hard to express how good of an opportunity this was for me and a lot of others in the program who didn’t think we had a chance of going to college. For me it would have been really hard financially to go to college. This program saved me, and my family, a lot of stress.”
Armon is currently an intern at a software company. The connection was facilitated through his counselor at Madison College and through the Dane County Apprenticeship Program. “This program is amazing for making real life applications and connections.”
Sydney is outspoken about the opportunities that she, and many of her high school friends, who were also accepted into the STEM Academy, now have. She is excited to tackle the challenge of advanced science classes that weren’t an option at her high school. Last year she already aced college chemistry and participated in an honors project demonstrating how we can measure the amount of energy we can collect from solar power. “It’s a project we’re hoping to develop into something bigger,” she shared.
Sydney, who plans to work with robots professionally, is currently mentoring 2nd-8th grade kids as they work to code robots through CodeNinja. She has set her sites on taking engineering classes in the upcoming semesters, and then plans transfer to a school to pursue that degree.
“I think the STEM Academy will look good on a college application.” She shared, “It shows that we can do well in college if we can graduate with an associate’s degree, have a sense of the college environment, and have already mastered studying skills. It’s like it shows that we have already succeeded.”