Veteran STEM program receives $1.6 million grant

By Noe Ortega

East Los Angeles College Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics department was rewarded with a $1.6 million grant for veteran students.

The grant is set up for the next five years for veteran students to earn STEM degrees and transfer to four-year Universities.

The National Science Foundation,  a government agency that focuses on research toward science and engineering,  awarded the grant to ELAC STEM.

“This is a grant that we’ve been working on for three years. This is not something that’s put together in a month. So of course when we got the grant, we were very happy, but it’s very important to know that this was a team effort,” said Director of STEM Armando Rivera.

The grant was a collaboration between ELAC STEM, the Veterans Resource Center and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rivera said that he knew he had to recognize his flaws, because he wasn’t an expert in Veterans Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychology or research.

He then turned to Jessica Peak, the Counselor and Coordinator of the VRC and Gerard Wong, a professor in UCLA’s school of engineering for help.

“I have veteran students that are the best students in terms of discipline because they come with that background. If you tell them they have homework, they do it. If you tell them to study, they study, but these students deal with a second layer. An emotional, deeper layer, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Rivera.

Rivera said that their main focus is going to be in biotechnology and engineering areas.

Though the grant doesn’t provide money for veteran students directly, they could receive money by attending a summer program in collaboration with UCLA’s school of biomedical engineering.

Twelve of ELAC STEM’s best students will be picked to participate in this summer program at UCLA. The participants will be taught by graduate students who are veterans. The program also allows ELAC STEM students to dorm on the UCLA campus for the time that they’re in the summer program.

Another form of payment that veteran students can receive from this grant is by taking a two-week review of a STEM class during spring or fall semester.

This is where veteran students can get a review by the professor that’s going to be teaching that class.

With this review, students who show up will have advanced knowledge of what they will be doing in that class before the semester starts.

These classes won’t have a letter grade, and the students who attend for the two weeks get paid. Rivera said that these workshops will start in August.

Rivera said that he would like to improve counselling for all students by bringing together the counselors from ELAC STEM and the VRC.

Before bringing them together, Rivera plans on having both counselors from STEM and the VRC to go through trainings for dealing with veteran students.

“As a STEM dean, we know that counseling is perhaps one of the most important components in student success. To know when to take a class. To know when to drop or add the class To take it in the spring or the fall semester,so that students can have a good transfer process. Good comprehensive counseling is essential for student success,” said Rivera.

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