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Bringing schools together for STEM success

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Heather Naviasky

Regional Manager of School Partnerships, the Y of Central Maryland

The Y of Central Maryland received a 2017-2018 FIRST® STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant to engage Spanish-speaking girls and young women in STEM programs.

The Y in Central Maryland and our school partners are always looking for STEM programming that can engage Spanish-speaking girls and young women. When the opportunity to apply for the FIRST grant presented itself, we spoke with school leadership to make sure it was a good fit. We agreed this was a gap we were unable to fill without this support.

Once we received the grant, we began recruiting coaches for the teams. We easily found them in staff at the school who were excited about this opportunity. They then worked with our schools’ community school coordinators to recruit students. As daytime staff, they were able to connect with other teachers and students in the school. The teams met weekly (or more, once the interest grew) for the duration of the year for at least an hour. They spent time learning how to program the robot and prepped for a local FIRST® LEGO® League competition.

One of the best things that came out of this grant was the collaboration between Graceland Park and Holabird Academy, two Baltimore Title I elementary/middle schools. While they are close in proximity, there has been distance between the families and students of the schools. With this grant, they came together to learn from each other and to prep for the larger events. Even following the formal competition, they continued to work together and challenge each other to do better.

Students who participated on FIRST teams were engaged and excited. They learned to be persistent and not give up after initial failure. They also celebrated their teams’ victories and supported each other when there was frustration. Through FIRST, we were able to challenge students, bring groups together, and enable our young people to achieve not just success with robots, but emotional and personal growth.

Learn strategies the Y of Central Maryland and other youth-serving organizations are using to bring exciting, hands-on STEM programs into their communities.

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