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Friday Institute Team Will Support Evaluation of Juntos’ $7.8 Million Grant to Improve Latinx Representation in STEM and Postsecondary Education

Headshots of Callie Edwards and Erin Huggins

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation will be supporting the evaluation of a $7.8 million grant to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) participation, persistence and career readiness with a focus on agricultural science pathways among Hispanic and Latino youth in the states of North Carolina and Washington. The grant was awarded to NC State’s Juntos program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America program.

Co-principal investigators Callie Edwards, director of the Program Evaluation and Education Research (PEER) Group at the Friday Institute, and Erin Huggins, associate director of the PEER Group, have been awarded a 5-year $452,103 grant entitled, “YEA: Advancing Equitable Agriscience Pathways (AEAP) through the National Juntos Consortium and STEM Agriculture Pathways (AP)” for their evaluation work. 

“I am thrilled to lead the Friday Institute’s evaluation role in this project,” said Edwards. “My team and I have a vested interest in examining tools, strategies and approaches that amplify the success of students that are often underrepresented or under-resourced in our education system. I am also a longtime friend and fan of the Juntos Program; it is a privilege to collaborate with Diana and her team in our shared pursuit of educational equity.” 

The larger project aims to improve STEM participation, persistence and career readiness among Latinx youth in North Carolina and Washington by increasing opportunities, capacities and motivation for these youth to engage in STEM education and workforce activities. Diana Urieta, Juntos’ senior director, co-developer and extension specialist, and principal investigator for the project, is a member of the Friday Institute’s national advisory board.

Hispanics are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, according to a Pew Research Center report. As one of the fastest growing groups in the country, Hispanics comprised nearly 19 percent of the American population in 2020. While they made up 17 percent of the workforce, they only comprise 8 percent of workers in STEM fields. Nationally, Hispanic students with a STEM bachelor’s degree are also underrepresented at just 12 percent. Addressing this equity gap will require a growing number of Hispanic youth to pursue STEM education and career opportunities.

This grant project brings together a diverse set of experts from NC State, UNC Chapel Hill and Washington State University who will support in the development and success of this project from implementation to evaluation. Edwards and Huggins will lead the Friday Institute’s contribution to this project; additional PEER team members include Research Associate James Birkett, Research Assistant Joy Alcantara Chuquiruna and Graduate Research Assistant Tori Ardines. The evaluation design will assess the likely contribution of the project to improve student outcomes and guide effective strategies suitable for replication. This work will utilize empowerment evaluation, frequently used in contexts where the program participants typically have little power, and aims to address real-life concerns to positively influence participants’ sense of self-efficacy. The team will use both qualitative and quantitative approaches across multiple data sources to provide a complete picture of their findings.