SMASH - The Kapoor Family
The Kapoor family of organizations works to remove barriers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and tech careers for underrepresented people of color.
I time with the level playing field institute which runs the SMASH programme. I spent the morning at the Stanford campus speaking to the staff and young people.
The Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) is a free of cost, STEM-intensive college preparatory program for underrepresented high school students of color. SMASH boasts a rigorous 5-week, 3-year summer, fully residential STEM enrichment program which provides access to STEM coursework and access to mentors, role models, and support networks of students of color. Each summer, SMASH scholars spend five weeks on a college campus immersed in STEM and live among other high-potential, underrepresented (African American, Latino/a, Native American, Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander, low-income, first-in-family to attend college) high school students.
It’s a very intense summer programme and requires commitment from the students. Speaking to the young people I realised a few things, unlike the UK where computer science is now
mandatory and part of the education curriculum, computer science varied from state to state and school to school. This meant that young people in very basic state schools didn’t really get access to learn about technology. The SMASH programme was about leveling the playing field.
As it was a residential programme at top universities, it enabled young people to see what it would be like to be a student at these top universities and raised aspirations in the process. \
Best Practice: Getting young people to live on campus as a student.
Lesson for the UK: Get students from state school and minority backgrounds and let them take part in a residential programme around technology to help raise aspirations.