Cal State LA, Verizon boost STEM education among East Los Angeles middle school boys

June 21, 2017

By Cal State LA News Service

California State University, Los Angeles has joined a program under Verizon Innovative Learning to provide science, technology, engineering, and math experiences to middle school boys in East Los Angeles.

Students will participate in summer intensive courses on the university campus to learn skills such as coding, 3-D printing, robotics and entrepreneurship that will help to make them competitive for future careers in a digital economy. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, students will return to Cal State LA each month, for mentoring and continued training in STEM subjects. Through the partnership, Cal State LA was awarded a $400,000 grant.

The Verizon Innovative Learning program is a first-of-its-kind, two-year initiative that partners with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) to bring STEM skills to minority, middle school young men. This year, the program has expanded to 16 universities nationwide.

“This partnership with Verizon will allow us to reach younger students and spark their interest in STEM,” said William A. Covino, president of Cal State LA. “Our participation in the Verizon Innovative Learning program underscores our role as a leader in STEM. Cal State LA graduates are changing the face of STEM professions across the country.”

The National Science Foundation has noted Cal State LA’s success in graduating students of color who go on to earn the Ph.D. in STEM fields.

The need for diversity in STEM professions is well-documented. There are currently more than 4 million available jobs in science and technology. “However, millions of kids from underserved communities don’t know they exist and can’t compete for them because they lack access to technology and tech education. We need more kids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them,” Verizon noted.

The Verizon Innovative Learning initiative seeks to provide that access.

“Cal State LA is a perfect partner because of its longstanding ties with the community of East Los Angeles,” said Octavio Villalpando, Cal State LA’s vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for Academic and Student Life. “Through service-learning classes, Cal State LA students contribute hours of service to local schools and community-based organizations. We are a part of this community and we know it well.”

The Verizon Innovative Learning program will benefit students in sixth and seventh grades from five middle schools: Belvedere, Brooklyn Avenue-SPAN, Griffith, Hollenbeck, and Stevenson.

coding on tablet The schools are part of the GO East LA initiative, a joint effort of the Los Angeles Unified School District, East Los Angeles College, and Cal State LA. The initiative was created in 2014 to promote greater academic outcomes for all East L.A. students by focusing on college awareness, preparation, completion, and career readiness.

Bianca Guzman, director of GO East LA, will coordinate the Verizon program at Cal State LA with support from University faculty members Mauricio Castillo, Claudia Kouyoumdjian, and Jessica Morales-Chicas.

“We’re delighted that students in East L.A. will have an opportunity to participate in the Verizon Innovative Learning program,” Guzman said.

The middle school students who satisfactorily complete the program are eligible to receive a free tablet from Cal State LA. They are also eligible to receive college course credit, and an opportunity to sign up for an apprenticeship certificate program to create computer applications.  

“Through this program students will learn that they can become creators of technology,” said Jose A. Gomez, executive vice president for Cal State LA. “One of these kids is the next Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos, or Steve Jobs.”

Photos: Top, Joseph Garcia from Griffith Middle School is one of the students who will be taking part in the Verizon Innovative Learning program at Cal State LA. Bottom, A student learning how to code on a tablet. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit