According to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center, black engineers and scientists represent only 9% of STEM workers. Initiatives are in place to increase these numbers, starting as early as elementary and high school. SMASH Wayne State is one of these programs.
SMASH Wayne State is a three-year science and math summer honors college residency Program established on the west coast that found its way to Wayne State University in 2017. Each year SMASH recruits 40 underrepresented students of color from area high schools at the end of a rigorous selection process.
Now, 73 students from all around Wayne County are currently in the program and will spend five weeks during the summer residing on Wayne State’s campus and taking courses like computer science, coding, and design thinking. To balance that work, SMASH Scholars also have the opportunity to take weekly field trips to places a lot of students don’t get to experience, such as the Detroit branch of the U.S. Patent Office. The program only recruits ninth graders because it is designed to take them through high school and to prepare them for college.
Aaron Harvey, a junior at Frederick Douglass Academy is a SMASH participant who hopes to “break the stereotype by giving our community more representatives in the STEM field.” He is the Class Representative (2021) for Frederick Douglass, executive officer for JROTC.
Marissa Flowers, a Howler staff writer and Detroit Cristo Rey junior, sat down with Harvey to discuss his involvement in the program.
Marissa Flowers: Tell me, what did you take away from SMASH during these last two years?
Aaron Harvey: One thing I took away from SMASH is responsibility. All 35 days I was responsible for waking myself up, developing a relationship with my roommate, and keeping my room clean. Post-SMASH, I’ve found myself being more of a leader in the classroom and taking care of responsibilities at home.
MF: If you could say something to the kids applying to SMASH what would you tell them to try and convince them that this is a good decision?
AH: I feel it would be an extremely pleasant experience for new applicants. You get to show off why you got selected in the classroom, have marvelous excursions (field trips) every Wednesday, and get to create relationships/connections that can last a lifetime.
MF: What was or is the hardest obstacle at SMASH and how did you overcome it?
AH: The hardest obstacle for me was learning responsibility. In the beginning, I had to throw myself into time management, healthy eating (which I did none of), and just the “college life”. I do feel more confident about going to college now though.
MF: What colleges do you wish to go to, and how do you think that SMASH is preparing you for it?
AH: The top colleges I would like to attend are Morehouse, Grambling, Florida A&M, University of Michigan, and Wayne State. I personally feel with my next two years of SMASH, I’ll run through college and use everything I learned from SMASH, in my college life.
MF: How do you think SMASH in Detroit helps break the student stereotype in Detroit?
AH: SMASH helps break the stereotype by giving our community more representatives in the STEM field, where people of color are lacking.