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600 Students attend Blackstone Valley Education Foundation October Careers in STEM Webinar Series

WHITINSVILLE, MA, October, 2020 - The Blackstone Valley Education Foundation (BVEF) continued its commitment to providing accessible STEM enrichment to its full and affiliate member school districts during the month of October. In honor of Massachusetts STEM Week 2020 (October 19-23), BVEF rolled out their new virtual programming initiative. The virtual programming at BVEF was designed in response to COVID-19 challenges and to make events accessible to a larger number of students, teachers, and administrators. BVEF’s successful weekly educational webinars reached over 600 participants in the month of October. A middle school student who attended multiple webinars shared, “You guys are such a well-oiled machine; it’s truly beautiful to see a team work as well as you guys.”

Erika Baum, Executive Director of BVEF, shares: “In the midst of COVID-19, we knew that we needed to alter the vehicle by which we delivered the same high quality services to our schools. By launching our virtual programming, we have been able to successfully respond to this challenge reaching more students and more teachers. We are thankful for our strong business partnerships that enable us to work collaboratively to increase students’ career awareness and provide teachers with opportunities to incorporate real life experiences into their daily lessons. Our most recent session with MEFA focusing on college financing allowed us to expand our reach even further by having parents participate as well as students and school counselors. We are excited to explore different ways in which our virtual programming can continue to positively impact our youth and educators in the months ahead.”

During the first three weeks of October, BVEF focused on a “Careers in STEM” Webinar Series. Partnerships with local businesses provided the perfect line-up of panelists to both inform and engage the attending middle school students about the various, intriguing career options available to them. Webinars were offered to partnered school districts via the live Zoom event, live-streamed on YouTube, and recordings to support both synchronous and asynchronous learning which is prevalent in education today.

Gaston Electrical (Norwood) and Consigli Construction (Milford) were a hit with students as they took them virtually to worksites, described their various STEM-in-trades related job duties, and shared helpful tips. One panelist, the self-named “Safety Guy,” was able to show students the excitement and importance of a safety inspector’s career. Utilizing the virtual format, panelists were able to provide a field trip experience to over 100 students.

Gaudette Insurance (Whitinsville) and MAPFRE Insurance (Webster) provided a new perspective on how the insurance industry helps so many people and is integral in almost all parts of our lives. Students learned how soft skills are crucial to an employee’s success in the workforce. The panelists’ candor about the many opportunities in this field as well as the lifestyle benefits drew student interest. Soft skills crucial to an employee’s success in the workforce.

Lenze Americas (Uxbridge) and Lampin Corporation (Uxbridge) received a surprise visit from State Representative Joe McKenna, who lent his verbal support to BVEF’s virtual programming. Both Lenze and Lampin deftly utilized the virtual platform to share information and highlight individual staff members journeys. Making the connection from school to career in story form, middle schoolers learned valuable life lessons and tips. The unexpected humor used by the panelists resulted in a high level of student interaction.

BVEF’s month of virtual programming concluded with a College Financing Webinar co-hosted with the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). This event attracted more than 300 participants and covered topics including: types of Financial Aid, the application process, free resources, and learning how decisions are made. The virtual format allowed BVEF to expand its audience to include junior and senior high school students, parents, and school counselors. The Financial Aid information provided to families was very well received. One participant reflected, “Thanks for helping me navigate through this daunting process, I feel more empowered now.”

BVEF’s October virtual programming success displays the importance of adaptation and initiative in today’s small, non-profit world. Challenges arising as a result of COVID-19 force many smaller organizations to adjust. From these challenges can come new, innovative solutions that may ultimately benefit the organization. In this case, the programs BVEF developed and launched serve more students and educators and more easily engage business partners. Due to the success and community benefits of the format, it’s likely BVEF will continue this branch of services long after COVID-19.