Raising Career Expectations Hoist Program Hopes To Get Indian Students Interested In Math And Science
Lyle Meshell, a Lakeside High junior, picked up the black contraption and read the label aloud.
He grinned at science teacher Tim Turner, then started flipping through the computer manual to see how to use it.
Arnold Daniels, a quiet freshman with a fascination for computer animation, peered over his shoulder.
“You can hardly get Arnold off the computer,” Turner said.
As Turner spoke, a microphone picked up the sound, causing jagged lines of color to pulse across the computer screen.
“This makes it, not a video game, but almost like that,” Turner said.
The students and teachers at Lakeside, plus those in Lapwai and Kamiah high schools, are benefitting from an innovative program designed to attract Indian students into the fields of math and science.
The cutting edge computer equipment, along with math and science software, is just one way educators are trying to encourage Lyle, Arnold and others to study science and math in college.
The University of Idaho’s HOIST program, which means Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers to Science and Mathematics, paid for the equipment. To purchase just one piece of it “would have blown my budget for the year,” Turner said.
“We have kids like Lyle who could go and do something like this, but when will he get this experience?” Turner said. “When he goes to UI, he’s not going to be starting from scratch.”
A $172,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and private foundations got the project started last year. The state Board of Education has agreed to fund its second year. The tribes also have supported the project.
Field trips and an eight-week summer workshop on the University of Idaho campus are also part of the program.
During the summer, about 15 Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene Indian high school students will work alongside college students on scientific research projects, often environmental ones. Their high school teachers are eligible for stipends and other benefits to take summer classes.
They aren’t the only ones who benefit.
All students at their schools get to use the new computer equipment, and last week, 70 to 80 students from the three high schools took a field trip to the campus for a taste of classroom and laboratory life.
Lyndell Reinbold, Lakeside coordinator for the Indian mathscience program has recruited Arnold and Lyle to join in this summer’s workshop. Reinbold is also trying to convince sophomore Cora Holt to sign up.
Holt is unsure. She may need to find a summer job that pays more than the stipend than the program offers participants, she said.
If she does go to college, “it would be a big deal for my family,” Cora said. “None of my brothers went to college.”
Lakeside High has a 44 percent graduation rate among its Indian students. Of the UI’s Indian students, the number who complete their degrees is less than 10 percent.
The overall UI graduation rate is about 43 percent, according to the registrar’s office.
Indians also are under-represented in the fields of math and science.
“They do not grow up in an environment often that provides them the opportunity to see adults involved in very sophisticated research,” said Isabelle Bond, the UI coordinator for HOIST. “As a result, they don’t see themselves as candidates for careers in math and science.”