Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has partnered with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), the Navy Diversity Directorate and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) to launch an intensive summer STEM program with a grant of $666,000 awarded to the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). The program, called Critical MASS (Midwest Association for Science and Service),aims to strengthen the country’s science and engineering workforce and military by guiding Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students in the exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as educational and career options.Critical MASS will offerCPS JROTC students classes in science, math and leadership; the chance to earn college credit; and trips to world-class scientific facilities in the Chicago region.
Critical MASS will begin in the summer of 2013 with six-week sessions to be held at CCC campuses around Chicago. A cohort of 60 rising sophomores will be selected from CPS schools across the city; students from minority groups, who are currently underrepresented in STEM fields, will be targeted and recruited for the program. The goal of Critical MASS is to help the United States remain a world leader in science and technology and increase the number and diversity of CPS students entering community colleges and four-year colleges.
To be eligible for Critical MASS, students must be nominated by a teacher, be enrolled in a CPS school and a JROTC program, and have at least a 2.5 GPA. A new class of Critical MASS recruits will be added in 2014 and 2015; by the third year of the program, there will be three cohorts running concurrently: rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Summer sessions will be six-weeks long, and students will meet three times each week for science, math, leadership and physical training classes. To connect summer learning to regular academic year coursework, participants will meet regularly during the school year and go on field trips to science institutions such as the Argonne National Lab and Fermi Lab.
Third-year Critical MASS students will be able to earn college credit that can be transferred to CCC, IIT or other four-year institutions. Once enrolled in college, they will be encouraged to enter the Department of Defense’s Student Intern Programs at NSWC Crane Division; Critical MASS will support two students in intern positions.
“By sparking interest in science and technology, Critical MASS will help more of our students enter the fields that are crucial to our national security,” said Todd Connor, Executive Director of CPS’ military programs. “We’re excited that our approximately 11,000 cadets will have the chance to be part of this promising effort to support their dreams of entering college and the military.” CPS’ Department of JROTC is the largest in the nation.
The program will be jointly staffed, resourced, and managed by faculty and staff of CPS, CCC, IIT, the Navy Diversity Directorate and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, located in Crane, Ind. Professional development for CCC faculty and CPS teachers through internships at NSWC Crane Division and at their schools will enable them to build relevant summer experiences for students that relate to Navy research and the needs of Naval scientists and engineers. CCC and IIT students will support faculty working with CPS students while serving as teaching assistants. Beloved Community Family Services Inc. will partner with CPS, CCC and IIT to provide community outreach.
By helping students become college-ready, the Critical MASS program will build upon CCC’s existing partnerships with CPS. Those partnerships include: dual enrollment , which allows Chicago high-school students to enroll in CCC courses; dual credit , which allows CPS students to simultaneously earn high-school and college credit through courses at their school; and Level UP , a free summer program that prepares incoming CCC students for college-level coursework.