Level Playing Field Institute Ramping Up for a New Year

This post is authored by LPFI’s Executive Director Jarvis Sulcer, Ph.D.

2014 is going to be a big year for the Level Playing Field Institute. I hope you will come along for the ride!

Last year, we began laying the foundation to position LPFI as the leading organization working to improve access and opportunity for underrepresented students of color in STEM. Our main goal for 2014 is to find new ways to fill in the opportunity gaps through our middle and high school intervention programs and assess the efficacy of our efforts through our in-house research studies.

We are going to focus on strategic growth this year. The computer science initiatives we launched in 2013—CampCode and the Level the Coding Field Hackathons—both present replicable models of how to engage youth of color in technology that can be scaled nationwide. Another area of expansion is the launch of a curriculum website built around our newly-developed Engineering Design course sequence. Our partners at Novartis will be able to look at rubrics, assignments and tests and provide feedback. We are very excited about the prospect of extending our reach and impact through existing and developing partnerships!

Collaboration is another growth opportunity for our organization. We are forming sustainable partnerships with a variety of partners including schools, non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, and university faculty to expand our networks of support for underrepresented students of color pursuing STEM degrees and careers.

Jarvis Sulcer and SMASH Scholar

While we are thinking nationally, much of our direct work will take place locally this year. This includes increasing the number of students served by and deepening the impact of our STEM education programs. This will be the first year we implement a comprehensive computer science sequence within our Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy. In addition to the usual STEM instructors, we are hiring three computer science teachers at each of the four SMASH sites for this summer’s program session. This effort, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, will increase the number our scholars who are prepared to pass the AP CS exam. Just 36% of our SMASH scholars attend schools that offer any Computer Science course at all and only 17% attend schools that offer AP Computer Science A. We will also have a greater presence in Oakland, CA and fully embrace the opportunity to make a difference in our own backyard.

Finally, we will mark the 10th anniversary of SMASH Academy this year. You can expect more details on how we will celebrate this milestone.

Of course, all these plans require a significant investment of resources. Last year we were thrilled to serve 115% more scholars and this year the expansion will continue. Along with growing our programs, our funding needs will also grow. Our budget will increase by 11%, but we plan to serve 50% more students in 2014 than we did in 2013. To reach our funding goal, we will focus on expanding our donor network and taking our giving campaign to the next level. I know I can count on your support to help us reach for the moon in 2014.

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