CORE: Welcoming students and families into STEM with 3M support
January 23, 2024

The Community Outreach, Retention, and Engagement (CORE) Program is working to bolster family involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs within the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. CORE’S STEM engagements reflect 3M’s model of science innovation, invention, and impact, and continued support from 3M makes CORE’s high-level programming possible.

CORE, which operates under the umbrella of the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) at the University of Minnesota, serves as the vital link connecting communities, schools, and families with the resources available at the University. While CORE welcomes all families, it specifically serves families with middle and high schoolers from underrepresented groups in STEM, and emphasizes the following in all aspects of its work: 

  • Family engagement
  • Academic support and social-emotional learning
  • College and career readiness
  • Engagement in the U of MM STEM ecosystem

The programming goal of CORE is to equip students and families with the necessary information, support, and empowerment to pursue their desired pathways.  The aim is for students to be prepared to enroll, persist, and successfully graduate from college—whether it be at the University of Minnesota, a four-year institution, or a two-year college—while also pursuing careers in STEM or STEM-adjacent fields. CORE is dedicated to reimagining how STEM fields can cater to the requirements of an increasingly diverse population and valuing the strengths that multicultural students contribute to STEM spaces.

“We have our undergraduate students, graduate students, professors, and staff members come in to share their STEM stories [with CORE participants]. We want our students to know there are multiple paths to achievement and levels, and the definition of achievement is what it means to them. Our goal is to have CORE students explore the world of STEM and understand that science, technology, engineering, and math is a very broad field and that they are capable and we are working to give them the tools to be successful in it.” —Audrey Breland, program director


Family engagement is at the base of CORE’s work. CORE requires students to bring a significant adult (parent, guardian, caregiver, or older sibling) with them to every event, and encourages all family members (students, significant adults, and siblings) to attend CORE events. During events, students participate in activities alongside their family members, allowing them to learn and grow together. CORE is not only connecting students to STEM education and career pathways, it is building community amongst participants. One parent shared, “CORE has brought our family closer together, and I've also really enjoyed connecting with parents of other students who go to our students’ school as well as other families from our community.”

Family engagement through Saturday Scholars 
One of the highlights of CORE is its Saturday Scholars program, which engages students with cohort-based activities that continue until they graduate from high school. One Saturday per month, CORE students and families participate in numerous hands-on STEM  activities provided by a variety of  U of M STEM facilitators and CORE partners (including Twin Cities middle and high schools). Saturday Scholar events usually happen on the U of M campus, but organizations such as the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the  Bell Museum have also been key collaborators.

From CORE students:

“I liked learning about what makes leaves green. We dipped this special paper in a solution, and it changed color because of the chemical composition. I look forward to coming to CORE because of the experiments, especially when I can do them at home.”

“The most interesting thing I learned in Saturday Scholars was about bird migration and how their feathers help them in different climates.”


CORE’s program director, Audrey Breland shares, “We believe it’s important to catch students in middle school, to help them develop a STEM identity, ignite a fire and try to capture their curiosities, and get them interested in different things. And then, as they progress through the program, we hope to give them more specialized activities.” In sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, students explore career paths very broadly. From ninth grade on, the program focuses more on college and career readiness, and STEM skills building. Students also receive individualized graduation plan conferences with a CORE team member, and learn about resources for the college admissions process. The program further underscores its commitment to inclusion by ensuring families have access to free parking and meals during each event, while encouraging the entire family to participate to remove additional barriers to participation.

Thank you
CORE’s impact extends beyond education, fostering a supportive network, removing barriers, and empowering students and families to thrive in the diverse landscape of STEM education and careers. “The opportunities that our students get are ones that are essentially priceless, or it would require families who have a substantial amount of money. CORE removes barriers by bringing students to the University,” says Breland.

Learn more about CORE here.

Thank you, 3M for helping make this important program possible.