Strategy 1

Identify PCSPs based on STEM PUSH criteria.

Brainstorm a recruitment list based on the STEM PUSH Network’s PCSP criteria.

Familiarize yourself with the STEM PUSH Network’s recommended criteria for PCSPs. Then, begin brainstorming possible programs from within your ecosystem that fit the criteria. To guide your brainstorm, focus on one or two requirements, those that may help you refine your list the most.

Cohort 1’s California STEM Network focused on the program structure criteria, which requires programs to offer a minimum of 100-120 student contact hours per year. From the start, this helped them narrow their list of prospective PCSPs to well-established, high-touch, and intensive programs within their ecosystem – as opposed to other types of programs, like one-time mentoring or career exploration initiatives. They also considered the STEM PUSH Network’s time commitment and equity focus and targeted only PCSPs with an established vision and strategic plan.

Try to identify at least eight potential programs during your brainstorming. If you have several programs on your recruitment list, revisit the criteria list and use it as a rubric. Consider how you’d score potential programs in criteria and narrow your list to reflect the top scorers.

As needed, enlist second- and third-degree contacts and think outside the STEM box.

If you’re struggling to source potential programs, work through your first-degree ecosystem connections to source second- or third-degree contacts. Ask for introductions from your first-degree contacts, so you can begin building new one-to-one relationships without alienating pre-existing relationships. Keep your requests to secondary contacts simple (i.e. “Can you share the PCSP opportunity with your network?”) Even if your ecosystem doesn’t have strong ties to higher education, this spider web effect will increase your list of possible program recruits.

During their recruitment process, Cohort 2’s NEOSTEM Ecosystem reached out to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and asked them to share the PCSP opportunity with their network. Though not a STEM-focused organization, the federation works with several afterschool programs – some of which are STEM-focused. Similarly, the ecosystem recommends reaching out to local Community Foundation program officers, to tap into their wealth of knowledge on local programming and contacts.
The New Jersey STEM Pathways Network is gathering new program referrals and introductions from their existing PCSPs

Refine your list by prioritizing programs you or others have relationships with, or those that are highly active in your ecosystem.

If you have a lengthy list of potential PCSPs, look for familiar faces. Who do you have working relationships with, through either ecosystem initiatives, member programming, or individual connections? Look for “backbone” organizations from your ecosystem or greater community. Who’s been around the longest, or is the most established? Who’s the most active and engaged in your ecosystem?

After drafting their list of eligible PCSPs, the California STEM Network prioritized those they had close ties with through the ecosystem, their respective organizations, or individually. Of their PCSPs, University of California’s MESA program had long been active in their ecosystem, while the California Academy of Sciences was their former parent organization. In addition, their ecosystem lead leveraged his ties to the University of San Francisco from a prior role to recruit university programs.
When recruiting their PCSPs, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative first approached programs they had working relationships with, including the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, with whom they’d collaborated on programming and facilitator training. They also sought out their strongest partner, Chicago Public Schools. Though they had a longstanding relationship with the district, the STEM PUSH recruitment process allowed them to have deeper conversations about the transition from college to career.
Despite not having direct relationships with PCSPs, Arizona’s SciTech Institute leveraged primary and secondary relationships to recruit PCSPs. First, they contacted the Vice President of Outreach at Arizona State University (ASU) – who was also an ecosystem board member. He connected SciTech to several potential PCSPs housed at ASU. Next, he tapped into his counterparts at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, to make additional introductions. As a result, the ecosystem scheduled a joint meeting with representatives from all three institutions and the STEM PUSH team. Following the meeting, each contact reached out to local PCSPs at their university and encouraged them to apply.
You can work with the STEM PUSH leadership team to make local connections. Many Cohort 1 Ecosystems, including the California STEM Network and the Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem, recruited PCSPs through relationships with other STEM PUSH team members. As you refine your PCSP list, share it with the STEM PUSH team for further discussion, feedback, and possible connections.

Add “wishlist” partners.

After drafting and refining your PCSP recruitment list, review it once more through an aspirational lens. Are there any organizations, universities, or projects that your ecosystem would like to build a relationship with? Several STEM PUSH ecosystems, including Cohort 2’s SciTech Institute, affirm that STEM PUSH has provided a way to think outside the box in terms of partnerships and outreach to new connections.

In addition to targeting existing partners, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative used the PCSP recruitment process to target new partners from higher education, including a program from Northeastern Illinois University. In their initial outreach, the ecosystem focused on big-picture goals rather than operational details. They framed the STEM PUSH Network as an opportunity for the program, university, and ecosystem to collectively help more Black and Brown students enroll and successfully transition from high school to college STEM programs.

Consider the college connection.M box.

Many PCSPs operate within colleges and universities. Though these programs may seem more suited to STEM PUSH work than those not connected to higher education, they share many of the same challenges. Even if connected to a college or university, a PCSP run out of a particular department often has different goals than – and a lack of communication with – their admissions office.

Cohort 1’s California STEM Network offered valuable support and recognition to their college-based PCSPs, helping them tell their story and elevate their profile – particularly for PCSPs that are part of highly competitive university communities. The ecosystem acts as a partner and ally for their PCSPs.

Make the ask, clearly outlining expectations, requirements, and benefits.

Once you’ve finalized your list of potential PCSPs, make a personalized ask to each program. If you have a mutual connection (like another ecosystem member or a STEM PUSH team member), include them in the message. Otherwise, send a short introductory email that provides an overview of the STEM PUSH Network and invites the program to schedule a meeting with you to learn more. During this meeting, review the expectations, requirements, and benefits of participation in STEM PUSH in detail.

Should any of your potential programs not be selected for participation, be sure to close the communication loop. Send them a personal note to thank them for their time and effort. Indicate a continued willingness to work together, as this will leave the door open for other collaboration – related or unrelated to STEM PUSH – between your ecosystem and their program in the future.

When recruiting PCSPs, both the California STEM Network and the NEOSTEM Ecosystem recommend emphasizing the time, structure, and requirements needed from PCSPs. Before committing, programs should ensure they have strong support from their parent organization and ideally have some relationships with people, projects, and organizations related to STEM PUSH work, including higher education admissions offices and leaders in K-12 education.
The NEOSTEM Ecosystem emphasized benefits beyond grant funds and accreditation when recruiting their PCSPs. Their programs were attracted to STEM PUSH work because of its connection to an emerging national community and the opportunity to uplift their program as an exemplar, contribute to scalable best practices, and learn and grow internally.
The California STEM Network highlighted STEM PUSH participation as a way to help PCSPs demonstrate and document efficacy and positive student outcomes. In turn, they said, this may help the programs secure additional resources and funding.