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Urban League partners with STCC to expose students to STEM

September 24, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – For three days each week this summer and throughout the 2017-2018 academic school year, 20 Springfield area high school students are stepping onto the campus of Springfield Technical Community College and getting a taste of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

They recently toured the STCC Data Center where the college’s servers are housed. They participated in workshops with Brian Candido, the Chair of STCC’s Information Technology Department, about Cyber Security including activities around password hacking prevention,  various types of computer viruses, and protecting one’s personal identification information.

“I enjoy learning about the different topics we’re going to be doing each week,” said Sophia Abril, 16, who is one of the students participating in the Urban League’s Big Three STEM Pipeline eight-week summer experience, which falls under the Urban League’s Be The STEM umbrella initiative.

The Urban League is working with HSI STEM at STCC, the University of Massachusetts, The Springfield School Department, Baystate Academy Charter Public School, The Springfield Renaissance School, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, Phoenix Charter Academy, Bay Path University, Becker College, Baystate Medical Center, the MassMutual Foundation, and more on what is called “The Big Three STEM Pipeline Initiative.” The students participating in this program come from schools in both the Springfield, MA and Northern Connecticut areas.

As a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), STCC last year received a federal grant to support Hispanic students in STEM fields of study. The Big Three STEM Pipeline Initiative is thankful for the grants received from both the MassMutual Foundation and the Beveridge Foundation to fund their program.

The Urban League’s Big Three STEM Pipeline initiative focuses on raising awareness about STEM academic programs and career paths in computer game science and design, cyber security and health (the Big Three STEM). “All three of these areas are fast-paced and growing fields that current high school students will be entering upon graduation from college in the upcoming years so why not begin to start preparing them now?” according to Dinah Moore, project director for the Big 3 STEM Pipeline Initiative.

The program, which is free of charge to the students, is held three days each week through Aug. 16 at STCC, but the program will also continue to run during the 2017-2018 academic school year by offering tutoring, additional field trips, and workshop activities in the three STEM fields mentioned above. Examples of summer field trips and activities have included patient care workshops where the students took turns working with patient simulators and using stethoscopes and various other pieces of UMASS equipment and technology, tours of the ambulances at the American Medical Response, CPR workshops, password hacking prevention activities, and game board creations to learn the thought process behind computer game animation and design.

Moore said the program “Not only exposes students to the STEM fields, but helps them start preparing for college, jobs, careers, and entrepreneurial opportunities. They will hear about financial aid options for college and take part in mock job interview sessions,” she said.  One element of the program is to help the students understand the importance of “soft skills” – working with others, doing presentations, and learning how to effectively communicate.

While not every student may pursue a STEM career, Moore said, “The goal of the program is to offer them the hands-on and application-based experiences and exposure to help them make an informed decision when that time comes.”

Urban League President, Henry M. Thomas III stated that, “The Urban League of Springfield’s STEM program youth has been participating in Urban League’s programs on STCC’s campus since 2014. This year marks the first summer program. Further, a number of entering STCC students have been recipients of the Urban League’s Scholarship Fund distribution and this will continue.”

Dr. Felicia D. Griffin-Fennell, HSI STEM activity director, praised the program as a fun and interesting way to expose young people to the STEM fields and careers connected to the subjects.

For example, she said the high schoolers will learn about programs at STCC such as laser electro-optics technology and biotechnology. They may never have heard about these programs, but might discover these majors could provide them with skills to land good jobs.

“It’s an opportunity for us to expand their understanding and to break a few myths that they might have,” she said. “We hope to get them thinking about possible avenues that they might never consider.”

About Springfield Technical Community College

Founded in 1967 and located on 35 acres of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, STCC is a major resource for the economic vitality of Western Massachusetts. As the only technical community college in Massachusetts, STCC, an Achieving the Dream Leader College, offers a variety of career programs unequalled in the state. STCC’s highly regarded transfer programs in business, engineering, liberal arts, science and technology continue to provide the most economical options for students pursuing a four-year degree. With an annual enrollment of more than 8,500 day, evening, weekend and online students, STCC is a vibrant campus rich in diversity.

For more information about STCC, visit www.stcc.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@S_T_C_C).

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