Following the Board of Trustees’ (BOT) decision to accept a grant awarded to Pasadena City College, the college was given an estimated $70,250 for 2017-2018 which will fund the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program, a STEM-driven group that focuses on disadvantaged students and their needs.

With the recent approval, the funds will be used to offer support services to more than 300 financially disadvantaged and first-generation students, according to the BOT.

When it comes to offering guidance, students can be found at her office hours discussing about school work or other events in their life. Her door is filled with decorative images of her family and friends, offering a welcoming atmosphere.  

“Every time a student comes in here, they are building a community,” said MESA director Melva Alvarez. “They are getting to know those who work at the front desk; they get to know me, and they get to know the students.”

Erick Lemus/Courier A mural in the MESA classroom that signifies the STEM field at Pasadena City College on Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

With many services such as tutoring, mentoring, networking, access to computers, laptops, and workshops on college success, students in the program are given the tools needed to succeed—whether it be receiving help in their rigorous classes or tips on transferring to a four-year university.

“[MESA] informed me about scholarships and internships, and it really helped me during my time at PCC,” said Vanessa Santiago, a biology student now at Cal State LA. “There are tutors that were available to help us. And Melva is great too for asking for help with academics and personal stuff.”

Not only does the program offer academic needs, there are other benefits ranging from various student activities and book loans. MESA also celebrates their students’ commitment to the program, as the program requires students to volunteer, attend workshops, and meet with their assigned counselors.

“We also hold a transfer ceremony at the end of the year,” said Diana Alvarez, an office clerk at the MESA center. “We host a celebration for [our students] to commemorate their hard work.”

In 1970, the science-focused program was originally established back for high school students. The program extended its services to community college students, and PCC followed suit by establishing MESA in 1991, which has grown significantly over the past years.

Applications for MESA are open every year during August. Students applying late, however, can still submit an application and join at a later time.

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