The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

MESA team takes home top prize


Students from the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program at City College and Cosumnes River College teamed up to flatten colleges and universities across California in an Oct. 19 competition sponsored by some of the leading energy and utility industries in the state.

The competition’s sponsors were PG&E, Southern California Gas, and Southern California Edison. These leading energy and utility industries are suffering from a workforce shortage, and they approached college students majoring in the fields of math, science and engineering to come up with a plan for workforce development.

The City College and Cosumnes River team created a three-point plan based on recruitment, development and retention of students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

The team focused specifically on K-12 education, and a certification program through community colleges, according to MESA students Phuong Thi Lan Le and Shelton Tapley Jr.

City College students Lan Le, 20, and Tapley, 40, have each been a part of MESA for two years, and this is the first time either of them has participated in a competitive conference.

“We were thrilled to win,” said biomedical engineering major Lan Le. “We were sitting there smiling like idiots.”

Lan Le and Tapley teamed with Cosumnes River College students Justin Laguardia, 20, electrical engineering major and Nati Tessema, 24, computer science major, to compete in the conference.

With three weeks to prepare, the team competed against MESA students from four-year colleges and universities, as well as community colleges across California. Impressing the judges with its research, the Los Rios team took home $1,000, a certificate and medals.

“I was like, ‘Good job, team,’” said Laguardia. “It was really satisfying.”

Lan Le explained that the project was a great opportunity for everyone involved.

“They came to us, the future engineers and hopefully leaders in the industry, to create a plan or a solution to help them increase the workforce,” said Lan Le.

For Laguardia, the goal of the project had a bigger scope.

“I wanted to implement a way to get kids exposure to science so maybe they can find out what they are really interested in,” said Laguardia.
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While Laguardia focused on recruiting, Tapley focused on how to keep students interested through college in the STEM fields.

“A statistic we found is 65 percent of students remain committed to STEM fields [through college],” said Tapley Jr. “They drop when classes get too hard.”

The team specifically targeted community colleges in their retention plan. According to Lan Le, her research showed that community colleges across the country serve 11.6 million students, and have an adaptable curriculum so they can meet the ongoing demands of the evolving workforce.

The students would then have guaranteed employment, and the companies would have an ongoing pipeline of employees.

The team is currently in contact with Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Involvement for Southern California Edison. Tumbling was a judge at the conference, and is currently helping the Los Rios MESA team write a grant for funding to begin implementing their program.

This type of networking has been invaluable to the MESA students.

“I’ve seen a lot of doors open quite a bit for me,” Tapley said of the MESA program.

All the members agree, though, that it would not have been possible without the other team members.

“It’s really been because of my teammates that this happened,” said Laguardia. “Nothing would have happened without them.”

Lan Le expressed a similar sentiment.

“I felt so fortunate being a part of the team,” she said. “I was the only girl, but my teammates were extremely supportive.”

MESA provides tutors in math, science and engineering. Tutoring schedules and hours can be found a or at Rodda South, Room 122.

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