Statewide MESA program and UCSC MESA director honored for innovative education programs

The California Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program, a statewide program with an academic support center at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been named one of the five most innovative public programs in the country. In addition, the director of the MESA Schools Program at UC Santa Cruz, Antonio Garcia, was honored individually for his innovative work on a new MESA initiative. These recent honors highlight the remarkable success of the MESA program, established in 1970 to help educationally disadvantaged students in California to succeed in math, science, and engineering and to prepare for college admission.

MESA serves 35,000 students in California and is a model for similar programs in seven other states. The program helps students prepare for math-based majors at four-year universities. Around 85 percent of high school seniors who participate in MESA go on to college--a much higher rate than the state average of 50 percent. MESA students account for 90 percent of the state's engineering degree recipients from underrepresented groups and 12 percent of the nation's.

The MESA program was selected from among 1,200 nominees to receive the Innovations in American Government award, presented on December 13, 2001, in Washington, D.C. The Innovations in American Government awards recognize five programs annually for excellence and creative problem solving in government. The $100,000 awards are granted by the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Ford Foundation, and the Council for Excellence in Government. Governor Gray Davis nominated MESA for the award.

"This award has given us a high visibility in the country this year. It has also helped to reinforce the commitment and investment of local industries and to grab the attention of local school districts," Garcia said.

Garcia himself was honored at the annual Professional Agricultural Workers Conference on December 3 at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He was invited to speak at the conference about the MESA Agricultural Initiative, and was nominated for Tuskegee's George Washington Carver Hall of Fame. Garcia helped found the MESA Agricultural Initiative, which encourages middle and high school students to excel in agricultural-based sciences, which are particularly important to California.

"The MESA Agricultural Initiative is a new direction within MESA," Garcia said. "It's consistent with our effort to reach out to the rural communities in California."

The University of California oversees the MESA program, which is a partnership between UC and California State University campuses, private universities, community colleges, public schools, education centers, and private industry. The MESA Schools Program at UC Santa Cruz supports middle and high school students by establishing MESA clubs or electives in rural communities like Castroville and San Lucas.

"We plant the seed of a college education in the minds of youngsters who have not really considered it, and we make it fashionable to be an achiever," Garcia said.

MESA Schools Program enrichment activities include extensive use of hands-on projects, a schedule of popular special events and field trips, campus tours, leadership conferences, workshops, and summer enrichment. MESA students receive academic advising and college prep and admission information. The MESA Schools Program hires UC Santa Cruz students to be role models and study-group leaders.


Editor's note: Reporters may contact Garcia at (831) 459-5648 or