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The National Collegiate Athletic Association, otherwise known as NCAA, has created an online learning platform to ensure that athletes at historically Black colleges are getting the education they need to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Known as ARISE, the program is first being offered to athletes in schools such as Florida A&M, Claflin and Grambling. Out of all the students amongst the three schools, only 35 were chosen to participate in the first “semester” of ARISE.
Up until early May, the students will be able to access interactive coursework that concentrates on both STEM and personal growth. Over the course of these 13 weeks, they will be studying topics such as the groundwork of STEM, how to be a leader and how to manage time.
ARISE also aims at teaching the students how to overcome struggles and how to present themselves as viable candidates for a career in STEM using social media. To help them throughout the online experience and further prepare them for the workforce, the athletes will be paired up with someone who has already found success in the STEM fields.
“STEM is an industry that lacks a diverse workforce,” said the vice president for the NCAA inclusion, education and community engagement, Felicia Martin, in a statement on the NCAA website. “HBCUs are equipping and graduating scholar-athletes in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The program was created alongside athLeda, a company focused on helping college students move from a school-oriented mindset to the workplace. They will be responsible for overseeing the distribution and completion of the program. AthLeda will also make sure that the athletes are connecting with the STEM leaders.
Access to STEM has been difficult for Black students, particularly Black student-athletes. In a 2021, a study was conducted by professors from the University of West Georgia, University of California, Irvine and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Focusing on six Black student-athletes, the authors held a series of interviews.
They found that not all the students had the option to take high school classes focusing on preparing them for STEM in college. The authors also mention that, of all the schools where Black students make up the majority of the population, only 29% have calculus classes and only 40% have physics classes.
This lack of STEM opportunities comes from issues such as systemic racism in schools and presents a problem for the Black athlete-students. Being that STEM is highly competitive, most STEM students are expected to already have a solid foundation in complicated subjects like calculus and physics in their first year of college.
NCAA and athLeda’s new program is looking to solve this problem and lead Black student-athletes to careers in STEM by helping them discover themselves.
“By allowing HBCU student-athletes to understand their strengths beyond sports, ARISE will empower them to name their own success,” co-founder of athLeda, Tracey Hathaway, in the statement.