Gavilan's MESA grant renewed, funding student servicesby on Oct 7, 2017
Gavilan College has been awarded a three-year, $210,000 grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office to support the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program.
Entering its 20th year, MESA supports educationally disadvantaged and historically underrepresented community college students as they pursue transfer to four-year universities and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The program offers specialized academic counseling, transfer support, tutoring and a dedicated learning center.
"Since inception, the MESA program has produced significant student success," noted Dr. Eduardo Cervantes, director of the program. "Gavilan now has alumni who are medical doctors, engineers, research and computer scientists."
MESA students, hard at work in the dedicated learning center on campus.
Students can join the MESA family at any time
Natalie LaCorte, M.D., a Gavilan/MESA graduate from Spring 2010, is currently completing a family medicine residency at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas.
"Joining MESA was the best thing I did for myself as an undergraduate student," LaCorte said. She added that her path to becoming a physician would have been much more challenging without support from MESA. "It's a wonderful program I actively recommend to college students."
"MESA's strength is knowing our students really well," Cervantes said. "We know who they are, their backgrounds, their goals. We explain to their parents where they are and what they are doing here."
A Gavilan grad himself, Cervantes returned to manage the MESA program in 2005 after six years coordinating programs at UCSC. Under his leadership MESA has more than doubled its student enrollment. He also manages the TRiO program.
Throughout the semester MESA celebrates student milestones – a good GPA, completion of a number of classes, significant progress. Families are invited, and the parents tour the facility.
"These events create more family support for the students and the MESA program," said Cervantes.
Gavilan MESA student Marques Reimann talks with David
Perkins from Tesla, who also studied in a MESA program.
Networking, first impressions in science careers
"I first discovered MESA after my car accident," said Kimberly Leyvaa. Catching up on quizzes and tests, she entered the building looking for her math instructor and answers to review questions. She asked Cervantes, who, instead of outright answering, invited her to join the MESA program.
She credits the program for opportunities to meet new people and work more closely with instructors. "The tutoring is great," she said. "I am especially thankful for Marisol Arredondo, who worked for hours helping me study for Algebra 2." Leyvaa earned an A in the class.
Leyvaa also participated in the Fall 2016 MESA conference. "In most STEM related majors, we need connections to get the jobs," she said. "Even when you're just chatting with someone important, we learned they are basically interviewing you."
A Biological Science major with plans to graduate from Gavilan in Summer 2019, she wants to attend Stanford University or UC Davis with a career goal in medicine: surgery, pediatrics or gynecology.
Building the MESA/STEM pipeline
Recently Cervantes wrote a grant with League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to create a new after school program at San Benito High School. "Pushing the fun factor, the first project entails building miniature drones," he said. More than 20 students signed up. The program educates high school students about STEM career options.
"The new program bridges the college and the community, building a pipeline of future Gavilan MESA and STEM students," said Cervantes.
MESA partners with business, industry and educational institutions including Western Digital, PG&E, NASA, Lockheed Missile and Space and Stanford University. To learn more, visit MESA online. Students can drop by MA 115 at the Gilroy Gavilan campus to tour the facilities and meet other students.