Science Career Continuum (SCC), Chicago Botanic Garden
Science Career Continuum's (SCC) primary goal is to promote racial equity in STEM fields by supporting underrepresented students with college readiness resources, networks, and culturally-relevant science curricula. The Presidential Award validates that the SCC model—which continually evolves based on student and community input—is worthy of recognition, provides a national forum to share the model, and affirms the accomplishments of SCC students, whose achievements are integral to the program's success.
The official biography below was current at the time of the award.
The Science Career Continuum (SCC) is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pathways program dedicated to increasing the ability of socioeconomically disadvantaged, first-generation students underrepresented in STEM fields to prepare for, persist, and succeed in college. SCC students hail from under resourced Chicago Public Schools and often from low-income households in which no parent or caregiver holds a four-year degree.
Chicago Botanic Garden’s community programs reach into Chicago neighborhoods with urban agriculture programs for youth, young adults, and ex-offenders, culminating in an accredited community college certificate program. Summer science camps for underserved youth and teacher-training programs transform the Garden into a living classroom each summer.
Mentorship begins when students enter the pathway between grades seven and eight. Instructors work closely with the youngest students in the Science First I program, introducing them to the botanic garden setting and basic earth science concepts. Freshman and sophomore students are invited to continue in Science First II for two years before graduating into College First. Staff continues to adapt SCC’s mentoring components in response to research indicating effective strategies to boost college persistence and performance among low-income students. The program has entered into a data sharing agreement with the Chicago Public Schools that will enable staff to determine whether SCC’s college-bound seniors are on track for college enrollment.
During its 22 years of operation, SCC has served more than 500 individuals. The program has always targeted Chicago Public School students, who are predominantly Black or Latino and from low-income families. Data gathered since 2010 indicate that 86 percent of SCC students are from ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in science and 83 percent of students come from low-income households. Since 2008, 100 percent of College First seniors have graduated high school, and an impressive 94 percent matriculated to college. Ninety-two percent of recent alumni have reported earning a post-secondary degree by age 25, including 64 percent who earned a bachelor’s degree (survey response rate 62 percent). Seventy-three percent of those who earned a degree majored in a STEM field, including 54 percent who chose a science major.
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