Santa Ana Unified School District Focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
When Clarissa Simental transferred to Santa Ana High School (SAHS) from a charter school at the start of her high school career, she hoped her new school would equip her with the hands-on experience, high-tech skills, and competitive edge she needs to be accepted into a reputable college and launch her career in engineering.
Now heading into her senior year, Clarissa, pictured above, says she has found all of that and more at SAHS, and is taking advantage of the many opportunities available to her as a student in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) to help her reach her goals of obtaining her bachelor’s degree in engineering and becoming a NASA astronaut.
In the summer of 2017, Clarissa moved one step closer to turning those dreams into reality, when she was selected as one of seven Santa Ana Unified students to intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
Through a special partnership, SAUSD interns are assigned mentors and contribute to projects for JPL using highly technical skills. They must research and complete their projects, and deliver presentations about their work and findings to JPL employees.
SAUSD offers STEM instruction and options
In addition to offering the JPL internship, SAUSD provides students like Clarissa various STEM related options at all grade levels. Click here to view a list of our PreK-12 Academic Programs and Pathways.
In addition, SAUSD has recently debuted two new STEM related facilities, including:
STEM lab at Lathrop Intermediate: A new STEM lab opened at Lathrop Intermediate in 2016. Its mission is to facilitate the learning and development of tomorrow's leaders in STEM by giving them the tools and resources they need today. Watch a video about the opening here.
Math and STEM building at McFadden Intermediate: A new Math and STEM building and an outdoor learning space opened at McFadden Intermediate School in 2017. Superintendent Dr. Stefanie Phillips filmed a new video message for the Santa Ana Unified community about the importance of providing modern classrooms for our students, like those opening at McFadden. "We are steadily trying to keep our facilities up-to-date and fresh with technology and the best learning environments possible," she said in the video. "Our students deserve it and we want them to be prepared." To watch it, click here.
Project Lead the Way
For her part, Clarissa is furthering her engineering studies by taking a year-long Digital Electronics course as part of the District’s Project Lead the Way offerings.
PLTW is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education curricular programs used in schools across the United States. SAUSD currently offers PLTW programs in Engineering, Biomedical Science, Computer Science, Gateway, and Launch; courses are offered at the elementary, intermediate and high school levels.
PLTW courses are offered under the umbrella of Career Technical Education, which aims to equip SAUSD students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to move on to their desired career path after graduation through the use of credit-bearing college courses, workplace training internship programs, industry certification opportunities and more.
In 2017, 3,313 students just like Clarissa graduated from SAUSD high schools, with nearly 93% of them going on to attend college and 112 of them entering directly into the workforce using the 21st century skills they gained at SAUSD.
When it comes time for Clarissa to graduate in 2018, she is confident in knowing that SAUSD provided her with the connections and specialized training she needed to set her on a successful path to college and career.
“I think that if I was in another school district I wouldn’t have had these opportunities and I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.