Aadil Kher may only be 13 years old, but he’s already been to college.

A student at McGarvin Middle School in Westminster, Aadil is currently taking a robotics class at Cerritos College thanks to the college’s Pathway Programs which help underserved K-12 students in the surrounding communities get hands-on learning in the various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

Through funding provided to the Cerritos College Foundation by donors including Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE), Cerritos College provides scholarships and programs that inspire and benefit students from local middle schools.

“We wanted a department to serve as the hub, to be the point of contact if you are a K-12 school district and looking to work with the college,” said Carla Yorke, program facilitator for the college’s Pathway Programs Department, which was created by the college in 2008 to serve as a one-stop shop for the school districts. 

This year, the Cerritos College Foundation recognized SCE at its annual dinner with the Distinguished Corporate Sponsor Award which was accepted by SCE President Ron Litzinger.

“The Edison grant provided an opportunity for my classmates and I to participate at national level competitions. It was a fun experience!,” said Aadil, who also took a principles of engineering class last year at Cerritos College. “Unfortunately, local schools and colleges cannot provide free to inexpensive STEM classes for those who can benefit from them.”     

The Pathway Programs Department depends entirely on grant funding and the Cerritos College Foundation continues its efforts to partner with corporations like Edison International for scholarships and programs such as Solidworks, which teaches students how to create 3-D computer-generated designs.

In 2013, the department worked with surrounding school districts to bring local 5th and 6th grade students to campus for a daylong STEM conference. Presenters used various displays to highlight important concepts in STEM, and students interacted with college faculty and student volunteers.

“Every time students attend these events at Cerritos College or any college or university campus, it opens the students' eyes and gives them one more chance to build their dreams,” said Phil Davis, director of Support Programs at Downey Unified School District

“Many of these students are living near poverty levels,” he added. “The ability to get hands-on experience in a robotics project or work with computer-aided design and experience being on the college campus is huge and makes it easier for them to dream big.” 

Cerritos College serves nearly 23,000 students in southeastern Los Angeles County.