High school STEM program receives funding

Cougs Rise will pair 120-plus students with WSU faculty



Ray Acuna-Luna discusses the additional $120,000 given to Cougs Rise. He says the program is looking to give high school graduates STEM experience early on.

HANNAH WELZBACKER, Evergreen reporter

Cougs Rise, an initiative of WSU’s Office of the Provost, has received an additional $120,000 in funding to help create a summer STEM program for graduating high school students.

Funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Cougs Rise serves first-generation or low-income students from five high schools in Washington state. University High School, Rogers High School, Wenatchee High School, Hudson’s Bay High School and Bremerton High School make up the 120-plus students who are a part of the program.

Director Ray Acuna-Luna said the program is specifically designed for increasing students’ integration and aptitude in STEM courses. He said it is very unlikely for incoming first-year students to have an opportunity to do research.

“We also recognize that early exposure to high-impact experiences can help guide them in where they want to go and developing connections with faculty,” Acuna-Luna said.

The goal is to partner students who come for the Cougs Rise summer bridge program with faculty members who will expose them to hands-on experience, he said. Acuna-Luna understands traditional teaching is part of the educational journey, but hands-on is just as important.

“During the summer bridge program, students come to WSU for a period of time to receive more resources regarding transitions and academics,” Acuna-Luna said.

This year students will come to WSU for one to six weeks, he said. After issuing a news release announcing the need for STEM professors, Acuna-Luna said he has already received interest.

Senior Emily Kaselen is one of the student mentors for Cougs Rise. She said she became a part of the program after working with WSU’s Multicultural Student Services and Asian Pacific American Students Coalition’s annual student-led conference.

“I want to pass on my experiences knowing that I have come from a first-generation and low-income background,” Kaselen said.

Cougs Rise is not the only student success initiative, Acuna-Luna said. Aspiring Teacher Leadership and Success (ATLAS) and Invest in Success both provide support to low-income students.