Our SMASH Academy and supporting SMASH programs weave together STEM education, mentorship, social justice curriculum and workforce opportunities, helping scholars hone their knowledge while building the networks and life skills necessary for a career in technology and entrepreneurship.
We also provide students with online resources, workplace experience, alumni programming and other essential support—all led by people who look like them. All of our work aims to equip brilliant students who aspire to create the future.
We do this by focusing on 3 key areas:
SMASH serves students who live in communities with schools that are underfunded and de-prioritized. This rigorous, world-class program fills a critical gap in the education system and opens doors that typically aren’t accessible or imaginable for many students of color. Our curriculum prepares students for important indicators of college readiness, including credit-bearing AP exams, while also fostering talents that can’t be quantified, like curiosity and creativity. We also build students’ sense of civic responsibility and global citizenship by teaching through the lens of social justice. All of this manifests in meaningful coursework that illuminates the power of STEM, like engineering projects centered on community safety.
Decades of social science research shows that students – especially underrepresented students of color – retain knowledge better when they can connect to what they learn and apply it to the world around them. “The SMASH way” of curriculum and instruction enables scholars to apply their STEM knowledge by designing and building tech solutions for the most prevalent problems facing their communities. This approach is student-centered; we identify and nurture students’ unique cultural strengths to promote their achievement and sense of well-being about their cultural place in the world. Bolstered by our emphasis on social justice, the SMASH coursework centers on real social issues; for example, biology assignments that target climate change within students’ neighborhoods. When you combine the lived experience of these scholars with academic rigor and a supportive environment, meaningful innovation happens.
A robust network is essential when entering the workforce, especially in tech. It’s important that our scholars meet people who not only work in tech, but look like them and are successful in the careers scholars are seeking. Through speakers’ series, networking nights and professional skills trainings, scholars are introduced to STEM professionals who have walked similar paths – offering students the opportunity to cultivate and leverage their networks for professional development and mentorship. Immersed in this environment, scholars gain a community of peers, allies and champions who are invested in their future.
Research shows, the SMASH way works!
SMASH alumni consistently perform higher than their peers and the national average on key post-secondary academic indicators. Below are some highlights from the 2017 SMASH Impact Report prepared by the Kapor Center’s Research team.
graduate high school
By comparison, the national rate is 83%.
enroll in college as a STEM major
By comparison, the national rate is 45%.
graduate within 5 years of high school graduation
By comparison, the national rate is 60%.
graduate college with a STEM degree
By comparison, the national rate is 32%.
The most important aspect [of] SMASH was seeing other colleagues with similar aspirations as mine. Having mentors in the careers I was interested in and seeing my friends be as dedicated as me to get to our dreams was one of my main fuels growing up. Juntos podemos., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
SMASH has provided me with the faith and confidence to push through the hard times of college and remind myself that I belong where I am., University of California, Los Angeles
Participating in SMASH was the first time I saw myself reflected in my peers. It motivated me to go to college and to specific types of colleges. The positionality of SMASH within the larger context of communities of color in general and people of color in STEM motivated me to pursue social justice endeavors., Stanford University
For more SMASH-based research, visit Research at the Kapor Center.