02/26/2016 03:20 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2017

Why Louis Stokes' Legacy Matters

This week hundreds of scientists and engineers gathered at the 25th Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Research Symposium in Maryland. More than 500,000 minority students studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have graduated from universities that receive LSAMP funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The "Game Changers Banquet" recognized the contributions of the late U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes and others who have contributed to the initiative's growth and success. The LSAMP program is named for the Ohio legislator because of his tireless work to diversify the United States workforce.

The opportunity for students to gather with science and engineering leaders is important and growing more so every day. It is projected that children of color will comprise 75 percent of those born by 2030. The future of science, technology, engineering and math fields resides with them.

But there are obstacles. Poverty and lack of STEM role models are two huge ones. Recognizing this, the government is striving to do something about it. In 1991, the National Science Foundation funded the first Alliance for Minority Participation initiatives. The goal was to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented minority groups earning degrees in STEM disciplines. The NSF funds 45 LSAMP programs at nearly 500 universities across the U.S.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds 45 LSAMP programs at nearly 500 universities across the United States. The LSAMP is considered the "crown jewel" of federal programs designed to broaden participation of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians in STEM disciplines.