A Powerful Partnership To Help Hartford Public Schools
When the Hartford Academy for Girls applied to our computer science program as a STEM hub in June, we knew it would be difficult to get their funding. The academy had limited funding, a core school population and a very limited enrollment. However, we knew that one of our key character traits is our desire to use STEM opportunities to promote equity of opportunity and diversity.
As the president of the Society for Information Studies in Education (SISE), I’ve spent my career advocating and creating inclusive classrooms. And STEM education is really the last frontier for increasing diversity in our classrooms. During my career I’ve seen how even the most successful STEM education programs fail to replicate an inclusive culture – I’ve seen the classes that have high retention rates and have worked hard on inclusion, and the classes that do not get much retention and don’t create the environment of inclusion we want to see in our classrooms.
We’ve realized that without strong leadership, programs like our STEM Hubs cannot succeed because if a leader wants to find a seat at the table, one has to recognize that there are common denominators and shared experiences that lead to social success.
So when the students of Hartford Academy for Girls reached out to us, we knew we had an opportunity to begin and build a strong model of collaboration. Our first goal for this partnership was to provide a fun, rewarding and immersive program to the girls.
The funding we received from the City of Hartford provided us the resources for student outreach and some resources. The academy provided us their academic expertise and their classroom space. And, through the excellent work of the SISE office, we were able to gain funds for things like uniforms, supplies and refreshments.
We hired a teacher to come from New York City and give students two weeks of after-school computing classes in the collaborative classroom. We hired a computer science teacher from Connecticut College and taught all the students computer science concepts. And we also offered an entry level class to encourage minority girls and women interested in computer science and science to come forward.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that our most powerful future leaders are the same ones we decide to teach our young people. In response to a student who asked how we had found girls who are interested in STEM careers and our answer was “hard work and a strong belief that they can succeed.”
In addition to mentoring and coaching from the partnership’s resources, we also partnered with a company called CUBE, which stands for Computer Science Education Equality Fellowship. CUBE has participated in eight computer science scholarships since 2012, investing approximately $50,000 with companies like MIT, Yale, Epic and Oversee.net. CUBE has impacted more than 40 students and will be giving $30,000 to nine new students in the Hartford Academy for Girls.
CUBE’s education fellows are able to work in industry, teach in other schools and spend time on community and civic work. Our partnership makes it easy for CUBE to provide these opportunities to girls in the greater Hartford area. Students are moved forward by being partnered with mentors who have the background and the passion to mentor and coach them in their passion for STEM.
Although the final results of the venture may not be clear for several more years, so far we are very pleased with the turnout of students and we can see that the partnership is serving a critical role in our city’s efforts to create an inclusive environment where students will be able to succeed.
We know that and promise to be vigilant for a long time to come.