Rio Hondo College announced Thursday it will launch an intensive program to support science, technology, engineering and math field studies for its largely Hispanic student population.

The Enlace pilot program, which is being funded by a $2.8 million, five-year U.S. Department of Education Title V grant, will provide services to all enrolled STEM students at RHC, with a focus on low-income, first generation Hispanic students.

Fields of study include biology, chemistry, computer information technology, computer science, engineering, environmental science, math and physics.

More than 56% of Rio Hondo students are low-income, first-generation college students and more than 80.25% are Hispanic, according to school officials.

“The Enlace program will provide a tremendous boost to our already strong STEM programs,” Acting Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “We are positioned to provide our students with unheralded and unprecedented STEM research and workforce experience opportunities.”

She said the program fills a gap in community college instruction for student independent research opportunities, which are typically more prevalent at four-year colleges and universities.

Rio Hondo will partner with Oak Crest Institute of Science, LA Bioscience Hub and the UCLA/RHC Scientific Exchange Program to provide real-world science research and lab experience starting in the second summer of the students’ education program.

“These partnerships will provide rigorous academic laboratory programs that allow community college students to learn to solve real-world problems while participating in important environmental and biomedical research,” said Rio Hondo College Vice President of Academic Affairs Laura Ramirez.

Vann Priest, Rio Hondo’s dean of mathematics, sciences and engineering, said all scientists and engineers can point to one person who turned them from a student to a professional.

“Our partners can provide that opportunity,” Priest said.

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