Our Story

Mission & Vision

Our mission is to build a strong, diverse and socially conscious tech workforce by leveling the playing field through academic learning and experiential engagement for high school and college students.

SMASH empowers dedicated students of color with an intensive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, culturally-relevant coursework and access to resources and social capital that allow them to be successful in college and in their careers.

Our Vision is a STEM ecosystem where every student, regardless of the zip code they grew up in, has the opportunity to participate in and thrive in the global economy. As a result, our communities and workplaces would benefit from well-prepared, competitive leaders representing broad perspectives and sectors of society.


SMASH was one of the earliest STEM education programs created in the United States as a way to prepare students of color for STEM college studies. The very first SMASH site program launched on the University of California, Berkeley campus in 2004, but it follows a decades long legacy of diversity and inclusion advocacy by our founder, Dr. Freada Kapor Klein.

2001 | A New Approach: LPFI

In 2001, Dr. Kapor Klein founded the non-profit, Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI). Frustrated by the inability of the for-profit world to foster diversity and having already spent nearly three decades consulting to organizations on issues of discrimination and diversity, Dr. Kapor Klein aimed to tackle the problem from a different vantage point. She created a non-profit institute to rigorously and creatively address why diversity efforts had failed and more significantly, to examine and implement programs to understand and experience how diversity could succeed.

2002 | Broadening the Vision: IDEAL

Over time, the plight of underrepresented students of color in higher education became a greater priority and fueled the creation of new educational programs. The first of these, the Initiative for Diversity Education and Leadership, IDEAL, was founded in response to the passage of Prop 209 during her tenure on the Executive Board of the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley with three of her colleagues.

Between 2002-2012, the IDEAL program helped students navigate and graduate from higher education systems by providing students with scholarships and mentorship.


2004 | Developing a Pipeline of Young Scholars: SMASH

Recognizing the need for a pipeline of highly qualified Bay Area students who are prepared for college, LPFI started assessing the opportunities that students from well-resourced schools have; it then sought to close the gap as much as possible for Bay Area students of color without those resources.

In response, SMASH was founded in 2004 under the name the Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy. It was inspired by and loosely modeled after Phillips Academy Andover’s Math and Science for Minority Students [(MS)2]. The SMASH Academy launched a residential summer program in 2004 at UC Berkeley, and in 2006, expanded to include year-round academic programming, based on student requests.

Extensive research showed that the SMASH model worked! Soon after, the national SMASH expansion began.

2020 | Pivot to Virtual in response to COVID-19

We launched our very first virtual program for SMASH Academy and SMASH Rising as our university and corporate partners closed in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

SMASH has served 1000+ scholars and alumni across the nation through SMASH Academy, held at 10 college campuses, and Rising programs, in partnership with 15 innovative firms.