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Caltech Students Honored with Community Education Award

Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 4:46 am

The San Gabriel Valley section of the National Council of Negro Women (SGV-NCNW) has presented its Community Education Award to the Associated Students of Caltech (ASCIT). ASCIT is the exclusive tutoring partner for members of Young Legends, a leadership development group organized by the SGV-NCNW.

In 2021, Young Legends director Annette Spence and tutoring coordinator Annice Jackson attended the Caltech Y‘s Community Service and Advocacy fair to invite students to be volunteer tutors in the program for local 11- to 18-year-olds.

ASCIT president Gabi Twombly describes how the partnership evolved: “Annice and Annette collaborated with ASCIT, under the leadership of Ayooluwa Odemuyiwa and Varun Shanker, to establish a meaningful partnership,” she says, commending the efforts of SGV-NCNW and the Caltech Y to support the partnership to this day.

“ASCIT remains steadfast in its commitment to empower students as conscientious scientists, while also fostering their ability to uplift and empower individuals within our community,” Twombly adds.

When the partnership began, says Shanker (BS ’21), people on campus felt growing concern about the pandemic’s outsized impact on young students from backgrounds underrepresented in science and engineering. Meanwhile, he says, Caltech students were craving social connection.

Today, more than two dozen Caltech students have tutored Young Legends members in math and science for an hour each week, typically meeting online.

Caltech senior Bertha Mireles has tutored in this program and Rise throughout her Caltech education. “I love my work and engineering,” she says, “but having an hour where I can interact with a human being, and especially a kid, brings back my motivation. It keeps that spark alive.” Mireles also values the opportunity to learn about Pasadena and local people beyond Caltech.

Jackson says that Young Legends members also enjoy their personal relationships with Caltech tutors and appreciate the conversations outside of STEM. “They are happy with the experience and with the tutors,” she says. Parents love the program, too, she says: “All of the parents I’ve polled have seen improvements in their children’s grades. You cannot beat this. The tutors are so professional and they’re some of the top students in the U.S.”

The program provides vital training and engagement, says Twombly. “It is really important that as individuals and as a scientific community we make sure we interact with stakeholders in our projects, do our civic duty, engage with our community, and use our talents and skills to benefit others.”

First-year Caltech student Miina Anvelt found continuity in the mentoring opportunity. “Since I’d done a lot of tutoring and volunteering throughout high school, it seemed like a very interesting program to help different students in the local community, specifically in math and science.”

Caltech participants also led 14 Young Legends members and 12 parents on an in-depth tour of campus in 2023 and taught a coding session for Young Legends in 2021.

At its inaugural gala on April 6, 2024, the SGV-NCNW honored ASCIT, Caltech, and the Caltech Y. Twombly and Jackman spoke in videos and in person at the event, and the SGV-NCNW invited tutors to join the celebration.

“Many of us students have benefited from some form of guidance in our lives, and we understand the importance of passing what we’ve learned to those who come after us,” Twombly said. “I myself have heard how grateful both the tutors and tutees are to be involved in such a program and it is extremely heartwarming to hear that we can come together to make a difference.”

“The Caltech Y is honored to partner with the Young Legends program,” Jackman said. “I am continually impressed with the passion and energy from the SGV-NCNW leadership team. What an amazing group of wonderful women. …Thank you for your tireless work to support students of color and be a beacon of hope in the community.”

“Caltech’s support and partnership are shaping a brighter future for math and science education,” says SGV-NCNW president Marie Thermidor. “We are grateful for Caltech Y’s involvement, as it transforms STEM learning and inspires the next generation of innovators and leaders. This collaboration bridges the gap, nurturing a love for STEM in our youth, and shaping a promising future for our community and beyond.”

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