Twenty-eight students attend a social distanced induction ceremony on campus

Kristalina Derry wants to be a physician, and challenging herself in Mazama’s STEM&M program is just another step towards that goal.

“I plan to go to college and go into the medical field so this will help me,” she said.

Derry on Tuesday was among 28 Mazama High School sophomores inducted into the school’s STEM&M program, which partners with Oregon Institute of Technology so students can study specific academic pathways in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Derry chose the medicine pathway.

The ceremony, normally held in the spring, was rescheduled for Sept. 1 after schools were closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony on Tuesday was still not the usual affair. Students and their families signed up for a time slot to sign the contract, pick up a Chromebook, and take photos.

Most schools are still closed because of the pandemic, and next week Mazama students will begin classes with their teachers online. Klamath County’s small rural schools will be opening to some in-person learning, and the county’s K-3 students will be allowed back in classrooms a couple of days of a week.

Laura Nickerson, Mazama teacher and STEM&M advisor, said STEM&M teachers are ready to go with their online classes.

“We’re planning to offer the same classes as we always do,” she said. “High expectations and maintaining rigor is a key focus for the Mazama staff while delivering distance learning this fall. We still plan on articulating with OIT for college credits and giving STEM&M students, as well as all Mazama students, a consistent, high-level educational package.”

The online platform also has encouraged Nickerson to expand her speaker panel. STEM&M students are invited to visit with guest speakers who are experts in their fields, and this year speakers will include experts from outside the area, who can now easily connect with students over Zoom.

“STEM&M will give these kids something to look forward to this year,” she said.

Mazama STEM&M student Thackery Moreland sees distance learning via online classes with his teachers as an opportunity.

“I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “I will be able to move ahead when I can.”

Moreland, who enjoys physics and math, chose the engineering pathway. “This program is more advanced, and it will give me a big lift when I go to college,” he said.

He was joined by three friends on Tuesday – Matthew and Mark Elfbrandt, and Diego Diaz, who all chose the technology pathway. The four donned their masks and posed for a photo with Nickerson after they signed their contracts.

To apply for the STEM&M program, students had to submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation and an application essay. Mazama staff graded applications using a 240-point rubric. Students who scored 85 percent or higher were invited to join the STEM&M cohort.

At their induction ceremonies, students signed STEM&M contracts stating they will keep their GPAs at a 3.0 or greater, take four credits of pathway coursework while at Mazama and take nine STEM&M Oregon Tech credits. The students also earn dual high school-college credits for many of the classes they take, graduating with an estimated 30 college credits already earned.

Mazama High School and Oregon Tech last year expanded the benefits of their STEM&M partnership, adding additional scholarship opportunities, two terms of free tuition and preferential access to selective Oregon Tech programs.

The Oregon Tech-Mazama STEM&M program started in the 2016-17 school year. School officials, who had agreed to re-evaluate STEM&M’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) after three years, decided to add incentives to the successful program. The new MOU has an expanded benefits package that ranges in value between $12,450 to $18,550, up from $10,500.

STEM&M students admitted to Oregon Tech fall term following high school graduation are eligible for the following benefits (eligibility is based on meeting program guidelines and GPA requirements):

  •  First and last term tuition remission
  • Presidential Scholarship
  • $1,500 Owls Scholarship
  • $1,000 Klamath County Scholarship
  • Application fee waiver
  • Summer High School Transition course tuition waiver for STEM&M juniors and seniors
  • Retained eligibility for Summer High School Transition courses for graduating seniors with confirmed Oregon Tech enrollment
  • STEM&M only New Wings registration event
  • Preferential access to selective Oregon Tech competitive programs (excludes dental hygiene and OHSU programs.)

There are a wide variety of perks that come with being a STEM&M student, Nickerson said. In addition to the benefits offered by Oregon Tech, STEM&M students receive a Chromebook for as long as they are in the program and recognition at graduation.

A new group of freshman can apply each spring, starting the program sophomore year. For information about STEM&M, email coordinator Laura Nickerson at

A parent takes a photo while four friends – Matthew Elfbrandt, Diego Diaz, Mark Elfbrandt, and Thackery Moreland– pose with STEM&M advisor Laura Nickerson Tuesday after signing their contracts.

Mazama sophomore Kristalina Derry signs her STEM&M contact while advisor Laura Nickerson, left, and a parent takes photos.

Mazama sophomore Matthew Elfbrandt chooses a pen to sign his STEM&M contract.

After signing her contract, Mazama sophomore Jordin Cantamessa receives her Chromebook from STEM&M advisor Laura Nickerson.