Guest Blog by John. T. Reagan, STEMx Tutor, Lockheed Martin

Education has always played an important role in my family. My father grew up in a working-class family who did not have the wherewithal to send him to college. Fortunately, he did exceptionally well in school and was offered a full scholarship to attend Boston College where he earned two degrees in Physics. 

He landed a job at Lockheed Martin in 1959 and over the next thirty-seven years worked on countless programs of national importance. He earned a Ph.D. in Space Physics at Stanford University while working full-time and raising seven children with my mother. He retired in 1996 as Vice President & General Manager of the Palo Alto Research Laboratories.

All of my siblings and I graduated college or graduate school with degrees ranging from liberal arts to electrical engineering. I followed in his footsteps by pursuing a STEM career and working at Lockheed Martin Space.

My father’s scholarship, a hand up when he needed it most, changed the trajectory of not only his life but that of his wife, children, grandchildren and generations to follow. I know firsthand just how transformative access to high-quality education, particularly STEM education, can be. 

Paying It Forward 

While I can never repay my father for all the opportunities he provided, I can try to pay it forward and participate in skills-based volunteerism.

Only 23% of eighth graders in California are proficient in math. You read that right. According to the 2022 National Center for Education Statistics, less than one in every four eighth graders in California is math proficient. Nationwide, the statistics are only marginally better at 26%. 

This is a dire and immediate problem in our country. Defense contractors, like Lockheed Martin, depend on highly educated employees to fuel their future talent pipeline. This is why, after learning these troubling statistics, I was moved to action. 

Since the Fall of 2022, I have been a volunteer STEMx tutor for a nonprofit called EnCorps.  The STEMx Tutor program was launched in 2020 to counter pandemic-caused learning loss, especially for students in under-resourced communities.

A Week in the Life of a STEMx Volunteer Tutor

As a STEMx tutor, I provide high-quality one-on-one online math tutoring to my student, now a seventh grader in the Los Angeles area.  Our tutor sessions take place on Google Meet for one hour twice a week. I use school-provided curriculum, homework problems, and links to online resources to conduct our tutoring sessions. 

I was cautiously optimistic as I started tutoring, but at the same time, I prepared myself for the worst because I had no understanding of my student’s educational background.  What I was not prepared for was the unbelievable results that we achieved together.

My student went from the 25th to the 67th percentile on his standardized diagnostic score in a single year with one-on-one focused tutoring.  Not only did his scores improve, but his confidence and interest in STEM increased.

For the 2022-2023 school year, 135 EnCorps STEMx tutors provided over 4,000 hours of no-cost, high-quality math tutoring to 171 students in under-resourced schools and communities.  Of those students receiving STEMx tutor support: 

  • 84% increased math proficiency
  • 84% reported feeling more confident in math class
  • 97% reported they believed they improved in math because of their STEMx tutor
  • 67% reported that they feel like they can belong in a math or science job if they choose

While this is a small sample size, just imagine the possibilities if the nationwide STEM community could be mobilized!

Making the Time

My flexible work schedule allows me to flex my time to make this skills-based STEM volunteer work possible. 

I know that I am making a lifelong impact in this young man’s life by setting aside two hours each week for 10 weeks per semester.  For those of us who have the ability and desire to give back to our community and build our future talent pipeline, EnCorps is a worthy organization to consider.

John. T. Reagan is a Principal Signal and Image Processing Engineer and Associate Fellow at Lockheed Martin located in Palo Alto, California.