Federal Grants

After-School STEM Program Gets $3.9 Million Boost

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has won a five-year $3.9 million grant from the United States Department of Education for a city-wide after-school STEM initiative, dubbed BoSTEM.

Launched in 2015, BoSTEM is a collaboration between schools and other community partners that aims to expand after-school STEM programming for 10,000 middle-school students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers and education. In the most recent school year and summer, more than 1,700 students participated in the program. The majority of students currently participating in the program are economically disadvantaged or qualify as high-needs students; 92 percent are black or Latino.

Boston Public Schools will work with BoSTEM to monitor student performance and help to align the program's efforts to the district's in-school STEM curriculum and instruction.

"BoSTEM's hands-on approach keeps students engaged in the skills that will build relevance to today's innovation economy and the increasingly technological world around them," said Tommy Chang, superintendent of Boston Public Schools, in a prepared statement. "As the Boston Public Schools works to narrow opportunity and achievement gaps, BoSTEM ensures that students from all backgrounds are getting important hands-on learning in STEM."

The funding is intended "to increase student interest in STEM and STEM-related careers, as well as refine, scale and evaluate BoSTEM as a best practice for quality STEM education and college/career readiness," according to a news release.

BoSTEM's goals include:

  • Reaching 10,000 students in grades 6-8 over the next five years;
  • Increasing interest and achievement in STEM areas;
  • Improving social and emotional competency;
  • Aligning instruction across school time and out-of-school programs; and
  • Offering hands-on learning opportunities with STEM professionals.

Additional funding for the initiative is being provided by United Way, IBM, JetBlue, Mass Biotech Council and the Linde Family Foundation.

As a result of the grant, Boston After School and Beyond will receive $1 million over five years to manage BoSTEM sites and coordinate professional development for teachers and other program staff. Program sites themselves will collectively receive $1.4 million over the life of the grant for programming targeted to students in grades 6-8 and the number of locations will increase from the current eight to 12 by the end of the grant period.

"These additional funds will allow community-based organizations like Sociedad Latina to better prepare students who remain underrepresented in the STEM field," said Alexandra Oliver-Davila, Boston School Committee member and executive director of current BoSTEM site Sociedad Latina, in a prepared statement. "Through this partnership we will be able to provide these hands-on learning experiences that not only pique the interests of English Language Learners and Latino students, but also provide them with STEM opportunities that make them feel empowered and see themselves as agents of change in their communities."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].