CSU Extension and AmeriCorps extend STEM opportunities

Thanks to a new partnership between AmeriCorps and Colorado State University Extension, youth in communities across Colorado will have the opportunity to do experiments, reflect upon results, and apply what they have learned in 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) projects. The new program focuses on out-of-school time education that encourages youth to develop 21st century workforce skills and consider STEM academic and career choices.

4-H STEM AmeriCorps program

“Colorado is home to one of the most skilled workforces in the country, yet Coloradans are not filling available STEM positions,” explains JoAnn Powell, project director and CSU Extension Front Range regional director. “We want youth to get excited about and hands-on with STEM.”

The program places 25 AmeriCorps members in 17 locations across Colorado to deliver STEM education and activities in communities with higher percentages of at-risk youth. The AmeriCorps members will work under the guidance of local Extension youth development experts to form community relationships, deliver STEM educational programing, build the capacity of STEM volunteers and engage the community in the effort. Counties, community partners, Serve Colorado and CSU Extension have each pledged resources to the 4-H STEM AmeriCorps program that targets improved educational and behavioral outcomes for economically disadvantaged youth and supports their success in post-secondary educational institutions and career readiness.

Opportunities fueled by STEM exposure

The $210,338 AmeriCorps grant, administered through Serve Colorado/the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, will provide people the power to bring these programs to afterschool and summer programs, day camps, overnight camps and community partner events in Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Garfield, Jefferson, Larimer, Logan, Mesa, Montrose, Morgan, Otero, Prowers, San Miguel, and Weld counties, at Shriever Air Force Base in El Paso County and in the San Luis Valley Area.

“The community partners and program delivery sites were all selected based on their interest in the project and individual community needs,” says Powell. “We expect that program participation will result in increased high school completion as well as youth seeking additional education and potential workforce opportunities fueled by this exposure to STEM. Colorado is projected to have above-national demand for STEM jobs; improving STEM education is crucial to filling these workforce demands.”

National Center for Dropout Prevention

This program will focus on several strategies identified by the National Center for Dropout Prevention to reduce the dropout rate including active learning, afterschool learning, safe learning environments and school-community collaboration and at some sites family engagement, career and technology education, educational technology and service learning. The content will also focus on contextual and cultural relevance — demonstrating relevance to the youth’s everyday lives.

According to Barbara Johnson, principal for the SOAR Academy in Sheridan School District 2 in Englewood, the 4-H STEM initiative is a good fit for her district because local students are often challenged by significant risk factors, including poverty and homelessness.

Highly engaging, hand-on experience

“High mobility and low attendance rates lead to students struggling with academic achievement,” Johnson says. “This program will provide students with a highly engaging, hands-on experience with science and math.”

She notes this is a great addition to the Extended Day program that currently provides students academic supports to make up missing work due to absenteeism and to keep up in classes where their skill levels are low

“In order to keep the upward mobility of our graduation rate and support STEM education, we need to work as a community to reach all students,” says Teri LeFebre, K-12 Science Specialist with the Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Grand Junction. “This new program will allow for direct delivery of STEM education to youth enrolled in our out-of-school program and will positively impact high school graduation rates.”

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages Americans of all ages in service to their community. CSU Extension serves all 64 Colorado counties, providng  information, education and engagement in regard to local, state and national issues affecting individuals, youth, families, agricultural enterprises and communities of Colorado.

For information on CSU Extension’s AmeriCorps member opportunities, visit www.4hstemk12.colostate.edu/americorps/.