It’s been more than 50 years since the Equality of Education Opportunity shed a light on the academic discrepancies between white and minority students.

Yet, 50 years later that gap persists, as reported by U.S. News.

What is Education Equity?

Equity in education, according to the Center for Public Education, is achieved when all students receive the resources they need to graduate prepared for success after high school. It supports the idea that students who are furthest behind - most often low-income students and minority students - should have access to resources to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the achievement gap.

Equity in Afterschool Education

High-quality afterschool programs play a key role in closing the achievement gap between affluent and disadvantaged students. In this article, we highlight how Level Playing Field Institute built a program that drives equity for minority students, in particular, by preparing them for careers in STEM and providing the resources and support needed to thrive from K-12 through higher education.

Program Name: Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH)

Academy Location: California (UC-Berkeley, Stanford University, UCLA and UC-Davis) and Georgia (Morehouse College)

Type of Program: Summer program

Students Served: Minority high-school students

The Program: The Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) founded the SMASH Academy in 2004 at the University of California at Berkeley. SMASH Academy, LPFI’s signature program, sought out to provide learning experiences that closed the gap between students at well-resourced schools and students of color without those resources. The free, STEM-intensive program features a 5-week, 3- year summer STEM enrichment program, which provides access to rigorous coursework as well as mentors, role models and supportive networks.

The Challenge: STEM industries lack diversity, with under-represented minorities making up only 10% of science and engineering professionals. But, it’s not because they aren’t interested in STEM. Reports dating back to the 1980s show that minority students expressed desire to have a career in STEM at a rate that was equal to white and Asian students. The gap, however, can be attributed to unequal educational opportunities, lack of mentors and lack of resources. In order to bridge the gap - and meet the demand for qualified tech and science professionals - these underserved students need access to quality resources that prepare them for a future in STEM.

The Success: SMASH Academy enrolls under-represented (African American, Latino/a, Native American, Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander, low-income and first-in-family to attend college) high school students. Each summer for three years, SMASH scholars spend five weeks on a college campus immersed in STEM and live among other high-potential, underrepresented high school students. To stay engaged throughout the year, SMASH scholars attend monthly STEM workshops and academic programming that includes SAT prep, college counseling, financial aid workshops and other college-prep activities.

The program boasts the following findings for 2016 according to LPFI’s website:

● 83% SMASH scholars intend to pursue a STEM major in college

● 92% of SMASH scholars reported that they feel capable of doing well in science

● 98% of SMASH alumni are enrolled in or have graduated from undergraduate studies

● 70% of SMASH alumni are currently majoring in/have graduated from STEM undergraduate programs

Watch the video below to learn more about the SMASH program and its impact on minority students. To learn more about Level Playing Field and their mission to eliminate the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in STEM, visit www.lpfi.org.