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The Donna Independent School District has launched an initiative designed to create pathways to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for DISD students.

Every summer, DISD will offer the Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM) three-week program for students interested in advancing in math and preparing for college-level courses. This year’s BEAM, led by eight faculty members began June 11 and will continue through June 29 at Donna North High School. As many as 126 students took advantage of this opportunity with 89 incoming freshmen taking Geometry Pre-AP and 37 incoming sophomores and juniors taking Pre-Calculus Pre-AP classes. The students will receive high school credit upon completion of the program.

“We’re excited to be able to offer this first-ever program to our students,” said Rashad Rana, DISD Academic Officer for Math and Science. “We were confident that we would have a good turnout because we had a big crowd of students and parents during a BEAM informational session earlier this year. We’re ecstatic!”

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Research shows that economically disadvantaged and minority students remain vastly underrepresented in STEM related-fields. However, BEAM is addressing these statistics by closing the gap in regards to math preparation and enabling more students interested in STEM fields to attain STEM college degrees.

“We know that mathematics is a key gateway to STEM fields,” Rana said. “Without it many doors will remain closed. This program will allow students to take up to four years of college-level math. This not only will better prepare them for college but allow them to earn college credits from Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses.”

Incoming DISD juniors Emily Garcia and Abraham Saldana are not quite sure whether they plan to seek a STEM-related field when they pursue college. But, they said BEAM may help them make up their minds. Both students are taking Pre-Calculus Pre-AP.

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BEAM Program Coordinators (L-R) Rashad Rana, Academic Officer for Math and Science; Nelda Kennedy, Math Dept. Secretary; Debra Harris, Math Stragegist; April Perez, Math Strategist; Yolanda Rangel, Math Strategist; and Kelly Watson, Director of Math

“I’m studying different fields to see what’s more appealing to me,” Garcia said. “BEAM sounded interesting. I thought it was a great opportunity for me since it was free and accessible. It will help me advance in math, gain credits and hopefully get accepted into a good college.”

Saldana was up for the challenge. “There was no cost involved so why not take advantage of the program,” Saldana said. “It might help later in my college life so I won’t struggle. The teachers are very helpful. They’re very good at teaching this subject. It’s challenging but I know it’s going to be worth it.”

Students must meet rigorous criteria to be eligible to participate in BEAM. Because of the advanced nature of this program, students must adhere to strict rules which include no absences, long hours and a fast pace.

Rana said feedback from students, parents and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. “We hope to grow the program as our students continue to show interest in math,” Rana said. “We look forward to tracking BEAM’s progress and the participants’ success.”

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