INSIDE Chico State
0 April 8, 2004
Volume 34 Number 10
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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BEHIND THE SCENES

Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas has what it takes to coordinate hundreds of teenagers: a well-developed sense of humor. Here he describes an engineering matching game in front of a wall of materials used with MESA students.

Photo by Lisa Kirk

'It's Like 'Wow'!

MESA's Stephen Thomas helps give students confidence

Stephen Thomas, academic coordinator for the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Schools Program, tells the story of a field trip in the Bay Area with a group of junior high school students. "A lot of the kids we serve haven't left their immediate area before," he said. "On this trip, we were driving over the Benicia Bridge and there were ships sitting out by the dock. The kids were like 'wow!'"

Those "wows" and wide-eyed looks are what Thomas (whose first name is pronounced Stef-en) enjoys most about his job. Thomas coordinates academic preparation activities and academic, college, financial aid, and career advising for the MESA Schools Program (MSP). MSP serves 270 educationally disadvantaged students at eight local junior and senior high schools. The program, which includes onsite advisers, focuses on supporting the academic skills needed to pursue mathematics- and science-based courses in college.

"Some of the students lack the confidence to even think that they can go on to college," said Thomas. "We let them know college is a possibility, and we try to get them on a college prep track."

Thomas is proud of the fact that approximately 70 percent of MSP parents participate in parent meetings. "We hold parent meetings so they will know what their students are doing and what we are here to do for the student and the parents," he said. MSP offers Spanish and Hmong translators at the meetings.

Every month, MSP offers activities on the CSU, Chico campus, such as college testing workshops. In addition, the students are invited to participate in the annual MESA Day, an event Thomas helps plan and direct. This year's MESA Day was held March 27. Students competed for awards in hands-on math and science activities, including creating three-dimensional models of an eye using non-perishable food, building balsa wood bridges, and growing crystals. Approximately 300 students and advisers participated.

Thomas is from Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1993, he received a B.S. in forestry from the University of Tennessee. He worked for several years as a forester before coming to CSU, Chico in 2000. Thomas is married to a CSU, Chico alum, Molly Van Putten, who teaches first grade in Gridley.

Lisa Kirk

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