Area high school seniors will get a boost in entering science and technology majors at Nassau Community College before achieving a bachelor’s degree at Hofstra University, under a new six-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
High schoolers in Freeport, Uniondale, Hempstead and Roosevelt selected for the program, beginning next spring, will be offered two-year NCC scholarships and up to $10,000 a year for their two years at Hofstra. The program provides summer research projects, mentoring, support services and enrichment to help them succeed in STEM — that's science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It mirrors a program already in place at Hofstra called iAM, which supports STEM students who overcome rocky starts their freshman year to complete their degrees. That program will receive $1 million of the NSF grant.
“This collaboration between the Hofstra and Nassau Community faculty makes the move between institutions much easier for students,” said Jessica Santangelo, associate professor of biology at Hofstra and co-principal investigator for the NSF grant. “Additionally, they will have access to career counseling, research and networking opportunities, and have mentors among their more senior classmates.”
She added that a long-term goal was to eventually see graduates of the program return to their high schools to inspire and recruit more local students to STEM studies: “to share their experiences and help get the younger students excited about it.”
NCC biology professor Jacqueline Lee partnered with Santangelo to apply for the grant and said students would be selected through the college admissions office in consultation with high school counselors.
“We have our local high school students going to local colleges,” Lee said, noting that some first-generation college students might be more comfortable starting higher education at a two-year college near home. About 90 local students enter NCC each year with STEM majors.
Santangelo said the grant would fund 60 students at NCC — 12 a year for five years — and 30 Hofstra students, 10 students a year for three years.
Hofstra will get $1 million of the grant to continue and expand the program Santangelo began in 2018 called iAM, or Integrated Achievement and Mentoring Program for Student Success, to help promising students succeed.
The first five students to go through the iAM program graduated in May, including biomedical engineering major Chima Odume — who graduated with two job offers in his field — and Ashwinder Parmar, of Queens, who is now studying for the exam to enter medical school.
May graduate Ashley Singh, 21, of Floral Park, said the iAM program reached out to her as she grew frustrated in her freshman classes.
“I think the primary usefulness of the program was the relationship with the professors,” she said. “They gave us insight into how to navigate the sciences and any other subject in college, how to study for exams, how to use the tools the university gives you and apply that in successfully completing assignments.”
When Singh decided that premed was not for her, she was encouraged to adapt, “to do what you like and do best … they helped me navigate to something else and that’s how I ended up in psychology and the law.”
Now she is studying for her law boards.
“Everybody deserves a chance for higher education," Singh said. "It’s hard to adjust freshman year, and everybody deserves the tools we were given, and the earlier the better.”