The official biography below was current at the time of the award. See the organization’s website for its latest information.
For over 30 years, the New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (NM MESA) has engaged thousands of middle and high school students across the state in meaningful mentor relationships and learning experiences with STEM teachers and professionals. Present in 31 school districts and 106 schools statewide, NM MESA fosters mentorship between STEM teachers and students, the majority of whom come from groups underrepresented in STEM fields. NM MESA provides students with a rich array of activities that expose them to concepts and skills critical for STEM careers.
A key asset to NM MESA is its strong partnership with industry, college and universities, and the public education system. Partners provide advice, technical resources, equipment, internships, financial resources, and mentors. All of these partners play an important role in providing resources and delivering the mentorship services to students. Another vital element of MESA's success is the leadership of Executive Director Toney Begay. Having grown up on the Navajo Nation, Mr. Begay brings an intimate understanding of the realities and needs of underserved students in New Mexico.
At its founding in 1982, NM MESA's first cohort involved 150 students in six schools. By 1996, NM MESA was reaching approximately 2,500 students a year and had demonstrated enough impact to win one of the first-ever PAESMEM awards. The program has continued to grow, and in the 2014-2015 school year, NM MESA served 4,442 students in grades 6-12. Elementary children are not officially enrolled, but middle and high school students have opportunities to mentor them, which introduces the program to this age group. Each NM MESA school program is administered by one of its teachers (164 of them in 2015) who receives a stipend through her or his school district. Participating teachers make use of professional development and other resources to improve their schools' STEM offerings and to build stronger mentoring opportunities with their students.
NM MESA students participate in a variety of enriched STEM activities such as field trips, workshops with universities and professional institutions, STEM competitions, and leadership development projects. Student and mentoring assessment include a longitudinal study, surveys, and consistent follow-up and feedback with all participants - teacher mentors and students alike. Such assessment helps monitor the program's effectiveness as well as potential barriers to participation. NM MESA offers incentives and rewards for high-achieving participants. Mentors guide and provide advice instead of requiring and prescribing, allowing students to make the choices that serve them best.
Student outcomes on completing high school speak to the impact of NM MESA. The 375 high school seniors in the class of 2015 who participated in the program that year surpassed their state peers in grade point average (3.54 cumulative), ACT and SAT scores (22.5 and 1670, versus state averages of 19.9 and 1498), and college matriculation rate (78 percent, versus 3.5 percent for New Mexico). Underrepresented students make up the majority of these success stories. NM MESA youth participation comprises 82 percent minority students, with near parity in gender, from all over the state. In 2014-2015, 62 percent of participating students received.