Bank of America grant funds college prep program in STEM fields

A smiling woman in a purple T-shirt and topknot stands in front of the fountain area at UAlbany
Rising sophomore Brianna Langston was part of the STEP/CORE program as a high schooler, and is returning this summer as a student assistant.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 17, 2021) — When Brianna Langston was in high school, she had the chance to spend parts of two summers at UAlbany, learning about conducting scientific research, employing various test-taking strategies for her SATs and, most importantly, navigating the many college options and application processes.

It was all part of the Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP) Summer Institute at UAlbany, which received a $50,000 grant from Bank of America for this summer’s program. The annual summer program, a partnership between University at Albany, the New York State Education Department, the City of Albany LIGHT Program and the Albany City School District, has the capacity to serve more than 100 local middle and high school students in its Summer Institute. Students who are economically disadvantaged or are underrepresented in STEM fields are exposed to college programs that lead to careers in the sciences and health care spaces, as well as technical and licensed professions. 

Langston participated in STEP in 2018 and 2019 as a student from Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls, and is returning to the program this summer as a summer assistant: an undergraduate staff member who serves as a mentor, tutor and on-campus chaperone. This year’s program runs from July 12-30.

“The STEP program was so important to me because the student assistants were actual college students who helped the high schoolers understand what college is,” she said. “We had classes in real college classrooms, with real professors, and even got to do research.” Langston’s STEP research projects were on biodegradables and their impact on the ecosystem, and on waste to energy systems and solar power and hydropower.

STEP made the transition to college much easier, Langston said, because she already had on-campus experience. After graduating from high school, Langston attended Hartwick College in Oneonta for one semester before transferring to UAlbany to complete her freshman year. “I just felt like UAlbany was more of a home for me,” she said. “It just felt right.”

And she’s excited to serve as a STEP student assistant this summer and share with the current cohort of middle and high schoolers what she learned during her time in the program.

“It’s really important for me to give back to other disadvantaged students, like I was,” Langston said. “As youth, we tend to listen to our peers. When I was in the STEP program it was the college students who really gave me a sense of what college would be like.” This summer 15 UAlbany students, including Langston, will be working with STEP Summer Institute as summer assistants.

This is the third year that Bank of America has supported the program.

“Bank of America is committed to supporting academic initiatives that advance and diversify the youth workforce in the Capital Region,” said David Cornell, president of Bank of America Albany/Hudson Valley. “Continuing our support of UAlbany’s STEP program will strengthen their mission of guiding economically disadvantaged students toward successful career paths and we look forward to helping more students excel with STEP this summer.”

The grant goes specifically to the College Overview and Research Experience (CORE) program. CORE offers high-achieving high school juniors and seniors a credit-bearing course, mentoring in laboratory settings, and library research and SAT prep instruction. This year’s Bank of America award will allow CORE to serve as many as 36 local high school juniors and seniors.

Mayra Santiago is the director of University at Albany STEP, as well as STEP’s collegiate sister program UAlbany, CSTEP.

“We are tremendously grateful to our partners from NYSED, the Albany City School District, the City of Albany LIGHT Program, and Bank of America for the resources they grant us to support local underrepresented students on their path towards college and careers in STEM and licensed professions,” Santiago said. “We also appreciate the efforts of Dr. William Hedberg, senior vice provost and associate vice president for academic affairs, and the University administration for taking actions and necessary precautions to return STEP to an in-person, on-campus experience safely this summer.”

The CORE program has traditionally been residential. Last year it went virtual because of the pandemic, reduced to six-hour days. This summer it will be run as a day program, returning to its usual intensive 12-hour days, with students coming onto campus every day but not staying in residence halls.