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Bank of America Supports UCR Math, Science Program for Girls

Bank of America Supports UCR Math, Science Program for Girls

(February 6, 2002)

The Bank of America Foundation gave $35,000 in support of a University of California, Riverside program designed to boost middle school girls’ knowledge of mathematics and awareness of community service at a Feb. 2 gathering of this summer’s participants.

The program is called GEMS, which stands for Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success. Organizers, UCR students and parents, numbering about 300, gathered on the UCR campus the morning of Saturday, Feb.2, to register participants for the program and to hear a presentation about the importance of mathematics to success in everyday life and in business.

The Band of America gift will expand the GEMS program from six courses per year to 10 courses annually, said Pamela Clute, executive director of the ALPHA Center, which organizes the GEMS programs in riverside and the Coachella Valley.

Supporting programs like GEMS, which encourage middle school girls to pursue mathematics, is “money well spent,” according to Bank of America Senior Vice President William Nietschmann.

“These types of programs create a workforce that is well prepared, more effective and better positioned to succeed in life,” he said.

And as the inland region grows, it will need to develop more quality jobs and to offer more cultural, commercial and economic opportunities to its burgeoning population, said David Warren, UCR’s executive vice chancellor.

“Our vision for the region will be as a leader in these and many other areas,” he told the audience inside the lecture hall of the Life Sciences building on campus.

“We can’t do that without a commitment to excellence in education from pre [kindergarten] to K-12 to community colleges and other venues for higher education,” he said.

It was Warren who promoted the idea of a center to help UCR develop closer ties with, and improve the regional schools. That led to the formation of the ALPHA Center, whcich counts the GEMS program among one of its 87 efforts to improve the K-12 public schools.

GEMS focuses on middle school girls because research shows those years are crucial in helping them decide whether they want to pursue careers in mathematics and the sciences or not. By making mathematics fun, and exposing them to women in history who have used math to do great things, organizers hope to plant the seeds of success, said Clute, a presenter and teacher in GEMS.

Kathy Gonzalez, a La Quinta High School student, told organizers that girls her age should also be exposed to mathematical thinking and the career opportunities that depend on such skills.

She’s getting her wish. The ALPHA Center at UCR will offer two pilot programs for high school girls this summer to address interest in the GEMS concept among girls of that age, Clute said.

“In today’s high tech world, mathematics skills are more crucial than ever,” she added.

Such thinking was not wasted on 12-year-old Jay-Lee Jones, from John Glenn Middle School in Indio. She attended the GEMS program in the desert last year as a 6th grader and decided to return.

“It made math more fun, like you wanted to learn more about it in GEMS,” she said. “We also learned about famous women in math and science. I really liked that.”

The 7th grader wants to attend UCR and work at the ALPHA Center before she becomes a fashion designer.

For Katrina Bowden, a 5th grader at Calvary Chapel School in Riverside, GEMS will hopefully help her master equations. Although she wants to become a professional singer, Katrina said she understands that mathematics is important in everyday life.

“Mathematics teaches you how to think,” Clute said. “A lot of times numbers are depicted inaccurately because people aren’t trained to know how they’re used.”

She flashes an overhead of a photograph taken at a burger stand that advertises a hamburger for “.99 cents.”

“That means you can drive up to the window, put down your penny for a hamburger and get change,” Clute said. “I’m sure that’s not the deal they meant to offer.”

To learn more about GEMS and the other programs the ALPHA Center offers students, call Student Affairs Officer Mary Eggers-Simons at (909) 787-5425 or go to the ALPHA Center website.

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