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Del Tech to coach minority students for futures in STEM

Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media

African Americans and Latinos make up close to a third of the country’s population. But the American Medical Association’s 2010 report says that only one out of 15 doctors are African American and one out of 20 are Latino.

At Delaware Technical Community College’s Wilmington campus, state and school officials announced that DelTech would receive a five-year $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to encourage high school minorities to pursue professions in the science, technology, engineering and math sector.


Del Tech will select minority eighth and ninth graders from various New Castle County schools, help prepare them for jobs in STEM and track their progress throughout high school.


Officials at the grant’s announcement didn’t just emphasize the need for more people to enter STEM workforce. The partnership with Nemours' Health & Prevention Services and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University focused the STEM initiative on promoting interest in a future in healthcare.



“There’s a huge need for minority representation in all areas of healthcare specifically doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, etc," said Paul Morris, the assistant vice president of workforce development at DelTech. "We are looking at getting students to know they can go into those jobs but also be prepared for those jobs as well.”


Krystina Kirk and Teresa Collurafici are second-year students in dentistry at Del Tech. Sitting on a table between them are plastic human heads with mouths stretched wide open.


“There’s different types of teeth that we use that allow us to practice on different instrumentation, different care levels and different types of people we’ll see in the clinic," said Collurafici, pointing towards the heads they use for digital x-rays.


“We have patients who are low income or don’t have dental insurance," said Kirk.


They were among several health-focused instructors and students from Del Tech’s STEM expo to show off the kinds of tools students work with on a regular basis. Karen Rollo from Del Tech’s nursing department says that it’s important to have a more diverse workforce in healthcare in order to care for a diverse population of patients.


“We need all those different perspectives in patient care so we can recognize all of those cultural differences," said Rollo.


The National Science Foundation estimates that over the next decade, 80 percent of jobs will require STEM skills.

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