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Celebrating Year One of the Biogen STAR Initiative

Celebrating Year One of the Biogen STAR Initiative
Posted on 06/19/2019

On May 23rd representatives from Cambridge and Somerville public school districts gathered at Lesley University to celebrate Year One of the Biogen STAR grant program. The goal of the STAR (Science, Teacher support, Access and Readiness) program is to strengthen and support the educational landscapes in Cambridge and Somerville by increasing access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities for students most underrepresented in STEM careers.

Among the grantees who were in the spotlight at the event:

  • FlagwayThe Young People's Project (YPP) trains high school and college “Math Literacy Workers” to engage younger students in a mathematical thinking game called the Flagway game. Grant funds allowed the YPP to expand and include both Cambridge Street Upper School and Putnam Avenue Upper School in mathematics electives and after-school programming.

  • YPP scholars were also supported to work with the Cambridge Educators Design Lab to explore the design question, "How might students, educators, and math professionals co-create a Math Playbook that highlights creative ways to learn and teach math?" The results of their work was presented at a separate event held at the MIT Museum in April.

  • Enroot, a mentoring and education persistence program, was able to enroll more Cambridge high school students in their programming this past year. A new job shadowing program supported by the Biogen Foundation provides immigrant students with the exposure and support they need to start on the college and career pathway that will lead to STEM fields.

  • Breakthrough, which provides a six-year college access program to “high-potential” youth, created a new STEM Vacation Camp using funding from Biogen STAR. Over the course of three days, students engaged in hands-on learning with STEM professionals at three Cambridge companies. Next year they plan to grow this program to serve more students for more days.

  • uAspire used grant funds to launch a new Succeed program, which supports students and families to tap into college funding sources and develop a financial plan for completing their college degree. Nationwide, the loss of scholarships in year two of college is among the leading causes of students dropping out of college. This year, uAspire supported 265 CRLS graduates while expanding into the high school to offer new and improved financial literacy support to prospective college students and their families. Their goal is to reach up to 1,600 students annually from 11th Grade through their second year of college.

  • In addition to these specific program grants, the STAR program also funded a number of capacity-building activities carried out by the STEAM Learning Lab at Lesley University. Support from the Learning Lab helped educators in Cambridge build new and equity-driven approaches to Upper School mathematics and to environmental science education at the high school level.

All of these initial successes are just the beginning. Biogen has committed to three more years of funding to build on the groundwork created through these STEM partnerships. As Superintendent Salim expressed during his opening remarks, this initiative has the potential to open up new possibilities through the power of collaboration. Citing disability rights activist Helen Keller, he remarked, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”