$3 Million Awarded to York College Minority Youth Education Program

Photo credit: Cristina John

By Cristina John

York College has been awarded $3 million to support the STEM and Aviation Education Program for community youth. 

The award comes from the JFK Redevelopment Partners with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo. It is a part of Cuomo’s commitment to provide opportunities to the Southeast Queens community as JFK International Airport undergoes redevelopment.

The funding would transform York’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP), formerly known as SEMAA, which introduces STEM education to students in grades 1 through 12. The program is expected to transition from a one-week, half-day summer program to a four-week, full-day program and also include aviation education.

The  JFK Redevelopment Partners held a conference to announce the award and partnership with York. Port Authority executives as well as York’s interim President Berenecea J. Eanes attended the event at the Redevelopment’s Information Center. One goal of the partnership is to provide job training opportunities for local job seekers. 

“I thank the JFK Redevelopment partners for its $3 million pledge support of the College’s MUREP program, positioning it to offer an even more robust experience for young community members with the addition of an aviation component,” said Eanes. “Through this partnership, we will continue to serve the next generation of budding STEM students. We are One York.”

Donna Chirico, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, which houses the MUREP program, expressed her support of the award.

“The CUNY Aviation Institute at York College has been at the forefront in providing the academic leadership for aviation studies since 2003, beginning with our undergraduate degree in Aviation Management and now a Master’s degree,” said Chirico. “The current STEM award is another achievement that is the result of the continued good work of Provost Meleties in collaboration with aviation colleagues, particularly Professor Chris Hsu, the Institute’s director.”

York’s professor and director of MUREP Nazrul Khandaker also attended the conference. He said York has a long track record of providing STEM education to the community since 1999 and has served more than 28,000 students. 

“The JFK Redevelopment Partners were impressed with the program York is doing,” Khandaker said. “The first thing that needs to be focused on is expanding the program. Initially the program would be four hours long, but the goal is to have it all day long — seven to eight hours.”

Currently, the program will run from Monday to Friday for four weeks. 

Khandaker said he wants the children to be able to “plan ahead, think, work in a group, and be able to present what they’ve learned to their friends and invite them into the classroom and show them what they’ve been doing for seven or eight hours, which would be remarkable.”

He is also confident that the expansion of the program will provide avenues for it to offer peer mentoring. The outcome for the peer mentoring will involve students presenting their STEM research to the National STEM Conference.

Chris Hsu, director of CUNY Aviation Institute at York and a professor of Accounting and Finance, together with provost Panayiotis Meleties created a big proposal for the program. Hsu said that the program focuses on two things: the children and job opportunities as a way of taking care of the community.

Hsu hopes to give younger children a solid foundation on STEM or Mathematics. For teenagers, they will mostly focus on finance, economics, computer science, cybersecurity, and aviation. 

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