The STEM Education Center at WPI is committed to supporting PreK-12 students, educators, and families in the Worcester, MA community and greater Central MA region with equitable access to high-quality, integrated, and inclusive STEM education opportunities through a STEM ecosystem. To accomplish this, the STEM Education Center has worked with an AmeriCorps member, Joshua Young, to promote STEM volunteer opportunities with WPI and the Worcester Community.
Worcester Technical High School
One such organization they have worked with is Worcester Technical High School. Together, they set up an after-school tutoring program for their students. Several WPI students, including a Worcester Tech Alum, joined the program as tutors.
“Tutoring at Worcester Tech was a unique and rewarding experience. Many would come back every Wednesday, which was encouraging and proof that these tutoring sessions were helpful” one volunteer, Joana Ripa, said. Worcester Tech students expressed similar feelings about how rewarding the experience was, praising the volunteers for their wide range of knowledge and willingness to help.
Genesis Bernabel, another volunteer, expressed excitement at volunteering at a school she had previously attended, as well as saying “Being able to help even one student feel more confident about their abilities made this experience worthwhile.”
Although the tutoring program has concluded for the year, Joshua hopes that this will be the start of an annual collaboration between the two schools. In particular, this tutoring program is set up to be an ongoing pre-practicum experience for the WPI Teacher Preparation Program.
Black Excellence Academy
In addition to working with Worcester Technical High School, Joshua has also recruited volunteers for the Black Excellence Academy (BEA), an organization started during the pandemic to help address the disproportional learning gaps experienced by Black K-6 students in Worcester. Joshua worked closely with members of the Black Student Union (BSU) at WPI to provide volunteers for the organization.
BEA expressed appreciation for the partnership, saying “Our students were always so excited to see them and get help from them. They were able to build bonds and truly inspire our students to excel in school.”
BSU students expressed similar experiences, with Alain-David Ndiku saying, “Over the course of the year, I watched my students continue to learn not to fear being incorrect in a learning environment, and to take pride in their academic accomplishments” Edie Hudson, another volunteer, agreed, saying “BEA gives children in after school programs an opportunity to have a space to engage with their peers academically and think creatively”.
Volunteering at BEA also gave students the opportunity to share their own experiences. One volunteer, Kristophe Zephyrin, was able to discuss the experience of being in a Historically Black Greek organization, talking about “the privilege of explaining my own history … to many of the students involved, which I hope will lead to their desire to enter a four-year college/university and live the Black Greek experience”.
Khadir Zachery expressed, “Being a volunteer at BEA was a humbling experience as I got to see my school project come to fruition”.
Latino Education Institute
Joshua has also worked with the Latino Education Institute (LEI) to provide a 4-week long robotics program. Using Edison robots, Anna Eng and Jay Yen, two WPI students, taught students at LEI about the basics of robotics and simple programming. Students participating in the program expressed excitement at the opportunity, saying that they looked forward to it each week. LEI has worked closely with WPI and the STEM Education Center in the past and is a strong community partner.
These partnerships continue and strengthen WPI’s commitment to the Worcester community, as well as promoting STEM education and supporting the Worcester Public School system. Worcester Technical High School, the Latino Education Institute, and Black Excellence Academy have all proved to be amazing community partners. The STEM Education Center hopes that WPI will continue to nurture and grow its relationship with these organizations and the Worcester community at large.