Mystic, Conn. (February 3, 2021): “Rising to the Moment” was the theme for the 11th Annual National Mentoring Summit. Unlike year’s past, the Summit, which took place January 27 – 29, was a virtual gathering of nearly 3,000 researchers, leaders and others who support positive youth development through mentoring. Among those presenting were Mystic Aquarium’s Senior Vice President of Mission Programs, Katie Cubina, and Director of STEM Programs, Laura Batt.
Since 2011, Mystic Aquarium has engaged more than 10,000 youth and 2,500 mentors at more than 100 youth-serving organizations across the nation through its conservation-based STEM Mentoring program. Additionally, the program has been a proud recipient of six Multi-State Mentoring grants from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) over the past decade.
The goal of the STEM Mentoring program is to positively impact the social development and academic achievement of 6- to 10-year-old youth from high-needs communities by providing high-quality group mentoring experiences in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), particularly as it relates to the field of conservation.
STEM enrichment is a powerful tool. Feedback from past program participants indicates that youth who engaged in these programs have improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, have increased their knowledge and skill sets in the field and often have a higher likelihood of pursuing STEM careers – a field that is rapidly growing.
Additionally, certain populations are dramatically underrepresented in STEM education and professions. And families of underserved youth are less likely to have access to extracurricular STEM learning opportunities. However, support provided by the many OJJDP-funded grants has allowed the Aquarium to bring these incredible resources into high-needs communities around the country — directly changing that status quo and “rising to the moment.”
“Our staff and members’ abilities to adapt to the new format of virtual Zoom STEM Mentoring sessions has been incredibly inspiring,” shared the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County in Annapolis, MD. “Though it is very different, the kids love that their supplies have been delivered to them.”
In their presentation, Cubina and Batt shared how they have adapted the STEM Mentoring programming in a variety of ways to accommodate sites’ needs during the pandemic. Much like changes in schools across America, options for exclusively virtual programming and hybrid interactions were offered, providing all sites the opportunity to select from a suite of new resources to meet their unique needs. “High-needs communities and communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. These same communities also bear the brunt of environmental degradation,” said Cubina. “It is gratifying to hear from program participants that STEM Mentoring provides much-needed resources to engage youth safely, while building their capacity and agency to be environmental stewards in their own communities.”