The Reach Center Launches
New Initiative Will Expand STEM Education in Maine
The Reach Center, a new initiative working to connect promising Maine students with opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), launched its work November 29 with a panel discussion on STEM education at the SEA Center at Southern Maine Community College.
Created by a $3.2 million grant from an anonymous Maine benefactor, the Reach Center is a joint program of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics.
“STEM education is critical for Maine’s economy and for the success of our students as they look to build promising careers after graduation,” said Jan Mokros, executive director of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and co-director of the Reach Center. “Many talented students start out interested in science, technology, engineering and math, but by the time they graduate from high school they have lost interest. We hope to turn that around and foster a lifelong interest in these important areas.”
One of the goals of the Reach Center is to take advantage of the interest many students already exhibit in hands-on science and technology to raise the bar for science and math education in Maine.
“Maine’s knowledge-based economy is driven by innovation, which in turn is fueled by a well-educated workforce equipped with STEM skills,” said former U.S. Congressman Tom Allen, who gave the keynote address at the Reach Center’s launch event. “A background in STEM is not only essential to many current and future careers, it is also a means for citizens to navigate an increasingly complex world—from understanding environmental sustainability to addressing the need for new sources of energy.”
In addition to creating new opportunities for students, the Center will connect middle and high school students with existing programs in STEM areas, helping to make the programs more accessible.
The Reach Center will work to arrange mentorship programs, online opportunities and after-school programs, and it will serve as a link to programs that already exist around the state.
The launch event included remarks by Tom Allen, now president of the Association of American Publishers; Dr. Allyson Handley, president of the University of Maine at Augusta; and a panel comprising Falmouth High School students Muna El-Taha and Shreyas Joshi; Luke Shorty, executive director of the Maine School for Science and Math; Alan Lishness, chief innovation officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute; and Laurie Lachance, executive director of the Maine Development Foundation.
In addition to the distinguished speakers and panel discussion, the Reach Center also unveiled a four-minute video about their mission that shares stories of how people have become engaged in science and math. That video, along with 12 individual clips of students, teachers, and STEM professionals sharing their STEM stories, is also available at http://reachcenter.me.
The Center previously held a summer conference to gather teachers’ input on how best to achieve its goals of identifying, engaging, supporting, and challenging promising young people in advanced STEM topics. A design conference is planned for February 2012 to create the first student programs, slated to begin in the summer.
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