Winter 2021 SMASH Newsletter Components

Scholar Spotlight:
Jalil Cooper ‘21, SMASH Morehouse

SMASH was proud to have SMASH Morehouse scholar, Jalil Cooper ‘21, as a guest speaker on  #OWNYourVote: Georgia on My Mind hosted by the legendary Oprah Winfrey on Thursday, December 3rd. This virtual voting conversation focused on inspiring Georgia residents to vote in the state’s special election held on January 5th.

Jalil, a high school senior enrolled in IB and AP classes, discussed with Oprah his experience voting for the first time in the 2020 General Election. He went on to express why it was important to him to vote in January’s Georgia Senate run-off election. Jalil’s commitment to his civic duty didn’t stop there. On Saturday, December 5 he participated in the kickoff for #SMASHTheVote Georgia with almost 50 other SMASH Morehouse scholars. This event educated our scholars on the importance of voting while energizing the scholar community in Georgia for the Senate run-off election. Especially highlighting that anyone can get involved, not just individuals who are of voting age.

Jalil is in the homestretch of his college navigation process. He is intending to major in biomedical engineering and was recently accepted into Georgia Tech. His dream is to attend either Stanford University, Howard University, or Morehouse College. No matter where Jalil chooses to enroll, we know he will do great and hope to see him in one of our SMASH Rising pods!

Mission Moment:
Enriching the Lives of Scholars Through Electives

SMASH’s Academic Year Program (AYP) has been in full swing since October. Two Saturdays a month, Scholars have been taking a STEM Workshop (focused on design thinking) and To+Through Workshop (focused on college preparation and navigation).  

In addition to AYP, our Midwest sites(SMASH Wayne State, SMASH Illinois, and SMASH Michigan), have come together as a region to provide our Midwest scholars with seven STEM electives. Scholars are participating in one of the following electives:

  • Computer Science – Game Design: Leveraging Sugarcube in Twine, scholars are provided the tools to develop their own video game with a social justice theme. This course is taught by a member of Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
  • Chemistry – Shipwrecked: Scholars are provided with a hands-on experience in Chemistry. They will be presented with a scenario where they are “shipwrecked” on an island and have limited supplies for survival. Scholars will receive a kit mailed to them that includes all tools and lab equipment needed to complete this project. Using the kit and classroom instruction they will be tasked with building a water purification system for survival on the island. This course is led by Lewis University.
  • Technology – Animation: In this series of workshops, scholars will blend art and technology to develop an animated project.These sessions will be led by Wayne State University staff.
  • STEM Career Exploration: Scholars will be provided the opportunity to interact with various  professionals in various STEM careers, such as Food Science.
  • STEM Application Learning Lab – Engineering Track:  Professors/Faculty from University of Michigan & Wayne State University will lead workshops focused on Engineering majors
  • STEM Application Learning Lab – Science and Technology Track: Professors/Faculty from IIT & Lewis University will lead workshops focused on Science majors.
  • STEM Application Learning Lab – Medical Track: Professors/Faculty from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and University of Michigan will lead workshops focused on Medical Science majors

Even though the SMASH community can’t come together to work with our scholars in person, with the help of partners, we are coming up with creative solutions to enrich the lives of our scholars through engaging virtual electives.

Welcome SMASH 2023 Cohort

This fall, SMASH welcomed the 2023 cohort, including the inaugural cohorts for SMASH Michigan and SMASH Northeastern. These scholars hit the ground running, working in their small groups to generate solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19 using design thinking and leveraging technology. This cohort has already:

  • Presented lightning talks
  • Generated “how might we” statements
  • Sketched working solutions to their “how might we” statements

We are thrilled to finally be working with the SMASH 2023 cohort and are impressed at how quickly they have formed a community that is willing to provide and receive constructive feedback from their fellow scholars as well as staff. 

If you know of a 9th grader who would benefit from SMASH, please let us know. SMASH applications for the 2024 cohort will open on January 11th and can be found at!

Partner Spotlight: Nevro, Helping to SMASH Barriers

Nevro is a medical device company, headquartered in Redwood City, California, has a simple goal of helping more patients suffering from such chronic pain achieve lasting relief. This past December, Nevro conducted a giving campaign for SMASH UC Davis and SMASH Stanford. In the span of two weeks, 53 Nevro employees donated over $10,000. But the generosity didn’t stop there. Nevro’s leadership team, personally donated a total of $10,000 and the company donated $5,000 making a total gift of $25,000! 

When asked why Nevro chose SMASH as the beneficiary of their 2020 fundraising campaign, Ronnie Robinett, Nevro’s D&I Program Manager said, “We believe that it is important to invest in our youth, especially those students who are underrepresented in the world of STEM. Diversity breeds innovation and the SMASH scholars will go on to become innovators of the future.  We could not let the challenges of 2020 set back the progress that SMASH is doing to prepare these scholars for their bright future ahead. In addition to our financial contribution, we are excited to give our time to the scholars to show them how they might apply their talents in careers that create medical devices to help patients around the world.”

Everyone at SMASH is grateful for Nevro being a valued #BarrierBreaker. During the 2021 year, SMASH Scholars will have the opportunity to learn about STEM-related careers and how Nevro’s devices are providing lasting relief for individuals suffering from chronic pain.

SMASH Alumni Update

In 2020 the SMASH Alumni Program doubled down on its virtual offerings to ensure alumni were plugged into our community & equipped with resources needed to navigate an unprecedented year — through college + career.

SMASH Admit is SMASH’s flagship senior program. Admit takes a comprehensive approach to the college application process, equipping SMASH Seniors in high school with 1:1 college application support, exposure to SMASH colleges/universities, and financial education to support them in making informed decisions about their future.

  • 91% of scholars accepted to SMASH partner university/college
  • $2.4M in scholarship dollars awarded overall

SMASH Rising, is SMASH’s internship prep program. Heading into 2020, Rising was positioned to deliver programming across 16 partners in 4 regions (83 seats) for in-person delivery — 5x growth since pilot. Notwithstanding CV-19, the Alumni Team pivoted to deliver virtual programming best suited to support SMASH Rising interns to gain meaningful exposure to the workplace. 

  • 95% of interns would consider returning to the same company to work full-time, or as an intern
  • 91% of interns would recommend Rising virtual
  • Launched a computer science pilot with Bitwise Industries to provide programming support at 6 partner companies

The SMASH Alumni Board, is a carefully selected team of alumni who design programs for alumni. In 2020, the team hosted the first-ever SMASH Alumni Summit Online — a 6 hour virtual event for alumni to connect and gain skills to re-write their personal and professional narratives. The virtual event was attended by 160+ guests and featured speakers like activist DeRay McKesson, educator Jeff Duncan-Andrade, and social entrepreneur Jason Mayden.