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SMILE: Making a difference in rural Oregon

Posted November 13th, 2012 by staff

Nyssa, Ore., is located on Oregon’s eastern border, much closer to Boise than Portland. The town’s only high school has about 300 students. Many of the students are Latino, most come from rural, lower income families, and few have parents who attended college (less than 7 percent of adults in Nyssa have a degree).

But in the last 25 years, the idea of attending college has become more of a reality for Nyssa High School students. In part, that’s because of a strong relationship they’ve formed with Oregon State University through an afterschool program called SMILE (Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences Program).

SMILE provides educational programming through its afterschool science and math clubs for more than 650 underserved youth, and training and support to 55 teachers in 34 rural grade and high schools in Oregon. The teachers attend workshops held at OSU where they learn to serve as after-school club advisors, are provided curriculum and engaging activities to foster interest and engagement in to participating students which emphasizes math, science, engineering and health. A majority of those students are Latino and Native American, and the rest are low-income white students.

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