Pacific’s MESA program continues to bring STEM activities to the Stockton Community

Students working on science project

MESA inspires and supports its students in their higher education and career by increasing exposure to the STEM fields

MESA program coordinator Rose Cureton ‘10 sits in her Baun Hall office preparing for the upcoming MESA engineering design challenge. Behind her, popsicle stick bridges and STEM project materials decorate a bookshelf.

“We want to make sure that we are providing students with a hands-on experience,” says Cureton, who explains why they are individually packing bags for kids to do interactive projects at home. “For the kids that participate, even if they just do a simple STEM competition, it gets them feeling like they are actually doing something.”

Since 1970, California’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program has been connecting with educationally and economically disadvantaged students to provide engagement opportunities within the STEM field. MESA inspires and supports its students in their higher education and career by increasing exposure to the STEM fields. MESA currently serves almost 25,000 students throughout California in 13 universities, 40 community colleges and nearly 400 middle schools and high schools.

Typically, Pacific’s MESA Program works with specific schools in the Stockton community, but 2020 isn’t an average year for anyone. In response to San Joaquin County schools operating under a distance learning-only model, MESA opened enrollment to all interested schools. By opening registration up to any interested school, the program can reach and enrich the lives of more students. 

One such competition for students is the Engineering Design Challenge that will take place during the first week of December. Students will be building windmills that can lift a certain weight, and then they will craft an egg catcher. The competition takes place over three days at three different parking lots and has been set-up to be compliant with San Joaquin County health ordinances. Previously, MESA had done a similar competition where students build catapults, and it was a big hit. MESA staff noticed that students were just as, if not more, competitive than when they’ve done these events entirely in person. 

Cureton knows firsthand the impact and importance of MESA in students’ lives. A Stockton native, Cureton attended Stagg High School and had the intention of going to WyoTech to become a mechanic. Then she discovered MESA. 

 “My MESA advisor Andrew Walter introduced me to engineering and he was pretty much the whole reason I even went to college,” explains Cureton. The program not only introduced her to engineering as a career path but also showed her that University of the Pacific was a place she could attend. “I applied to Pacific and only Pacific, which was kinda crazy on my part.” Not only was Cureton accepted into Pacific’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, she was also able to secure a work-study job with the Pacific’s on-site MESA program. 

“Especially in areas like this, programs like MESA are so needed because these kids don't believe in themselves. They don't think they can do anything more than what their parents do or what they see in their neighborhoods,” adds Cureton when asked about the importance of MESA. “It's a program that shows kids that they're capable of more than they think that they are.”

To learn more about MESA or to get involved, visit their website.