This application addresses broad Challenge Area (12) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, and specific Challenge Topic 12-CA-104: Developing the Workforce in Emerging Technologies CURE. The goals of the proposed MENTORS (Model Education Networks to Optimize Rural Science) Project are directly responsive to stated goals of this area and topic, because MENTORS aims to: """"""""create a pipeline of underserved students and investigators in the fields of emerging and advanced technologies;"""""""" """"""""increase the number of scientists from underserved populations"""""""" and """"""""enhance cancer research"""""""" through """"""""increased training and educational opportunities for minority and underserved students"""""""" to """"""""enhance the diversity of the pool of future investigators."""""""" Currently, there are insufficient numbers of students pursuing careers in biomedical research, technology development and healthcare delivery. The lack of students from diverse ethnic, racial and financial backgrounds entering these fields is particularly concerning. Experts report that waning student interest in these careers is due, at least in part, to a lack of understanding about what scientific and medical careers entail and misconceptions about the rewards and required aptitudes. There is general consensus that in order to effectively address the lack of diversity in science, educational and recruitment programs cannot begin at the college level and cannot focus entirely on students alone. Programs to address this urgent need cannot ignore the influence of educational experiences in secondary school. Early, positive interactions with scientists enthusiastically engaged in basic, translational and clinical cancer research can have important and lasting impacts on student career choices. Conversely, uninteresting content and/or poor teaching in high school can be very detrimental to future choices. Accordingly, our response to this CHALLENGE employs a more comprehensive approach that includes on-site research experiences for high school students from a variety of backgrounds, as well as collaboration with classroom teachers to increase awareness of the opportunities in research and technology and improve the capacity for inquiry-based classroom instruction. The classroom instructional efforts will be focused on the integration of science and Career and Technology Education (CTE). The integration of natural science and CTE specifically addresses career development by making use of the connection between science concepts and their real world application. Science classes teach the biological and chemical concepts that students must understand for job success and informed decision-making. CTE, through an emphasis on career and job training, provides a clear demonstration of how science knowledge is applied to a variety of heath, science and technical careers. Today's CTE classes are no longer focused exclusively on vocational and technical training, but now provide an opportunity for students to participate in hands-on experiences to enhance preparation for a range of careers. CTE classes are increasingly utilized by rural, minority and underserved students as a pathway to ensure career success. To address this urgent need to encourage and prepare the next generation of basic, translational and clinical cancer researchers, we have assembled an experienced and collaborative team of faculty and staff on five campuses of the University of Texas system to participate in the MENTORS Project. The Project is designed to focus underserved and minority high school students in TX, particularly those in rural school districts, where there is often a lack necessary resources and opportunities for educational enrichment. To accomplish these goals, the MENTORS Project includes the following Specific Aims: 1. To provide hands-on, onsite research experiences for high school students to stimulate pursuit of a broad variety of health, science and technology careers. MENTORS will provide opportunities for high school students to participate in onsite field experiences and paid Research Internships that will provide the opportunity to interact with biomedical research scientists, technical and health care professionals engaged in basic, translational and clinical research, particularly those focusing on health disparities. 2. To engage an existing collaborative network of high school teachers and research and laboratory scientists who will work together to develop and disseminate classroom lesson, activity and field experience plans that enhance student preparation. The Project will provide paid Educator Fellowships and professional development workshops to support teacher participation in the collaborative development and dissemination of research-inspired classroom materials, designed to enhance preparation of students for science, health and technology careers. 3. To utilize a mini-grant program to support STEM-CTE integration in rural underserved and minority classrooms. The Project will develop a mini-grant program that will allow high school teacher teams to apply for funds to support implementation of a comprehensive STEM-CTE integration program in their schools. Public Health Relevance: The MENTORS project will make a crucial contribution to biomedical research and public health by enhancing recruitment of minority and underserved students into scientific and clinical careers. Furthermore, many rural areas in Texas are medically underserved and have critical shortages of healthcare professionals. By actively engaging students in activities that stimulate career development, high school graduation rates will rise and more students will pursue post secondary training to prepare them for careers in health care delivery and research.
The MENTORS project will make a crucial contribution to biomedical research and public health by enhancing recruitment of minority and underserved students into scientific and clinical careers. Furthermore, many rural areas in Texas are medically underserved and have critical shortages of healthcare professionals. By actively engaging students in activities that stimulate career development, high school graduation rates will rise and more students will pursue post secondary training to prepare them for careers in health care delivery and research.