Last week the San Francisco 49ers, in partnership with Chevron, opened the doors of Santa Clara High School’s STEM Leadership Institute (SLI) to its first freshman class.
“It’s really exciting today to be able to finally unveil [the lab] to the public and show off the work that our students have been doing, all teaching staff, and especially all the partners are involved in supporting this,” said SLI teacher and director of the program Jennifer Lee.
The 49ers SLI program is a six-year curriculum that begins in seventh grade at Cabrillo Middle School and continues through 12th grade at Santa Clara High School. It seeks to prepare students with high academic potential to be outstanding in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The 60 freshmen students that are utilizing this lab were the first SLI class at Cabrillo Middle School’s Chevron STEM Zone back in 2014.
Raquel Blassingame, an SLI student, said that the students had to apply, write an essay and go through an interview to be accepted into the program.
Blassingame said she wants to study genetics or software engineering when she goes to college. When asked what she hopes to get out of the program, she said, “I want to get the resources to get to where I want to go or further.”
According to Muhammed Chaudhry, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SEVF), 49ers SLI students will get 300 hours of instruction a year through the program.
“Those 300 hours are matched with these core values of developing curiosity, determination, leadership, and persistence in these students so they can really become world class STEM leaders,” said Chaudhry.
SVEF, the 49ers, the Santa Clara Unified School District and Chevron worked closely to start the program two years ago.
The lab houses many machines and tools the SLI students will use during their program. The lab houses fabrication equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and milling machines. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, the SLI students explained and demonstrated these devices for supporters like Co-Chairman of the 49ers Dr. John York and Chevron’s Executive Vice President of Midstream and Development Mike Wirth.
According to Wirth, this lab is one of 10 Fab Labs around the country that make tools accessible to children who might not otherwise have access to them.
The program’s goal is to cultivate the SLI students to be, “especially well qualified to go to the best schools in the country,” said Wirth.
Chevron’s partnership with the 49ers was essential in opening the lab and their STEM Zone at Cabrillo Middle School. According to Dr. York, the 49ers Foundation and Chevron have collectively donated over $5 million to these programs and labs.
The lab is part of Chevron’s $10 million commitment to the Fab Foundation. Sherry Lassiter, president of the Fab Foundation, was at the event to present the Fab Lab key.
After the ribbon was cut and lab was officially opened, the students and local leaders at the event were tasked with creating a large sign using the tools in the lab. Community members and students worked together to create different elements of the sign. Wirth’s group cut the wood for the sign while another group cut and print the lettering. There were also teams tasked with creating noise makers and spirit outfits.
“It’s fun to see the young people engaged and teaching the old people,” said Lassiter.
The lab is primarily for the SLI students to use for the program, but Writh said that other Santa Clara High School programs will have access to the lab as well as the greater community.
This class of 60 SLI students is just the beginning of this program. There are 180 students total in the program, including the 7th and 8th graders at Cabrillo Middle School. As the years pass, the students will move through the program until they graduate high school.
“These are the leaders of tomorrow,” said Dr. York. “And I believe we are in good hands.”