SUNY Afterschool Mentoring Program

Location  United States

Sponsor  The New York Academy of Sciences

Partners  New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, The State University of New York (SUNY), National Science Foundation

An afterschool program for primary and middle school students in underserved schools, it trains and installs scientists-in-training as mentors, inspiring the students and bringing to life science learning and discovery through hands-on mentoring and science education.

Successful mentoring in STEM bestows benefits on teachers and students alike, and both reap these benefits through a unique partnership led by the New York Academy of Sciences.The Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program places trained graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in afterschool programs in underserved schools in New York City and across New York State.

The program allows students the opportunity to experience STEM in informal learning settings with role models they can relate to—young mentors who help them form a positive “STEM identity.” At the same time, STEM professionals receive practical experience as STEM teachers, learning to better communicate STEM subjects across audiences and experiencing teaching as a possible career.

Since its inception in 2010, the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program has grown from serving students in New York City schools to a large-scale program with nearly 100 partners in economically disadvantaged middle schools and community-based programs throughout New York State.

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Meeting the challenge of engaging students in science learning head-on, the program trains and places graduate students as tutors and role models whose goals are to show students that science is something to be seen, touched, and experienced firsthand.

Since it began, over 10,000 children at over 100 organizations have received more than 131,000 hours of hands-on science and math education from over 700 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The mentors represent some of the world's best universities.

And the program continues to grow: In 2012, the National Science Foundation awarded a $2.95 million grant to expand it to six additional sites in New York. In 2013, the Girl Scouts of the USA and the New York Academy of Sciences committed to expand the program across the U.S. In 2014, the Academy launched two international sites in Malaysia and Barcelona, Spain.

The program’s dual goals offer unique results—students are exposed to the world of science discovery and learn that science is an exciting and viable career option, and the young scientists gain valuable experience that will in lead to further engagement in STEM learning.

“Students see that science is not all about memorizing from a book, but it’s about things that you can touch and see, everyday happenings that are part of their lives. It makes them more inquisitive, and as a result, they have a much better experience in college after they have been through the program.”
Karen Torrejon, former mentor, PhD candidate, nanoscale engineering

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The Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1223303). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.