The Coast News Group
First day of fall 2023 classes at MiraCosta College. Courtesy photo.

MiraCosta launches new math, science and engineering program

OCEANSIDE — MiraCosta College has announced the launch of the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program, a statewide initiative aimed at helping economically and educationally disadvantaged students pursuing degrees in mathematics, engineering, science and technology.

The MESA Program at MiraCosta College – made possible with a grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office – will welcome its first cohort of students in spring 2024 and will open the MESA Center later that fall. In the center, students can study, connect and receive training and other developmental support from MiraCosta staff.

While enrolled, program participants are provided academic counseling, internship opportunities, workshops and other professional development support. The program’s vision is to see California’s STEM workforce reflect the diversity of the state’s population.

To help launch and grow the new program, MiraCosta College has hired Jessica Perez-Corona to serve as activity director for the MESA Program.

A first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego, and a master’s degree in education from San Diego State University, Perez-Corona brings a range of experience in higher education to the role. For more than 15 years, she has worked to support students on their academic journeys by empowering them to pursue their dreams and advocating for their needs.

Drawing on her personal and professional experience, Perez-Corona aims to create a MESA Program that positively alters the makeup of the region’s STEM workforce.

“Our goal is to support students not just academically but professionally and personally,” Perez-Corona shared. “As a woman of color and a first-generation student when I started college, I know firsthand what it means to have a program like this on campus. Without support from a program like MESA my experience was incredibly challenging, and I don’t want that to happen to today’s students. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong in STEM.”

Perez-Corona will work with MESA Faculty Sponsor Professor Angela Beltran-Aguilar and Academic Services Coordinator Theresa Romano to develop a holistic program that will assist students at MiraCosta College to succeed in various STEM majors.

“As MESA Faculty Sponsor, I look forward to creating a community in which underrepresented and underserved students in STEM feel like they belong and can succeed in their major and at MiraCosta,” Beltran-Aguilar said. “I credit my success as a math major at the University of California Los Angeles to a program that shares many aspects of MESA, so I believe in the positive impact our MESA staff, services, and space can have on the students we’ll serve at MiraCosta College.”

Together, the three leaders will help deliver counseling, mentorship and other critical services that will allow students to further themselves in their academic journey and careers.

“Our students face additional hurdles and challenges to succeed in a space that wasn’t originally created for them to access, let alone participate and learn in,” Romano shared. “We are not just creating a space for MESA students to succeed academically, we are creating a place for community and belonging to grow, where students can connect and navigate higher education together.”

The MESA Program, administered in partnership with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, serves thousands of students across California from pre-college, community college and university levels each year. By bridging classroom learning with real-world applications and employing rigorous academics, leadership preparation, a peer community and collaborative problem-solving training, MESA aims to produce highly skilled college graduates who meet 21st-century STEM workforce needs.

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