Boys & Girls Club gets $297G grant for Career Launch

The Girls Who Code class, which is offered by the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, will be an important component of the pilot project,

The Girls Who Code class, which is offered by the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, will be an important component of the pilot project, funded by the National Science Foundation, to enhance the club’s Career Launch program. In this file photo from January, instructor Josie Rivera (top) helps Amelia Carboni, 9, (left) and Calista Hallet, 10, work on a coding project. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/FILE PHOTO

LEOMINSTER — With a goal of preparing students to make better-informed decisions about their possible career paths, the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster has been awarded a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Using this grant, we are actually helping make an impact on the lives of children and the workforce of tomorrow,” said Donata Martin, the club’s executive director.

The two-year pilot project, which will be funded by a NSF grant of $297,000, will enhance the club’s Career Launch program and has several areas of focus that will increase students’ exposure to STEM/STEAM content and learning like First Robotics, Girls Who Code and Jason Learning, which is a science curriculum.

Career Launch prepares teens for the world of careers and work by allowing them to explore possible vocations, making sound educational decisions and finding success in the world of work.

The pilot project will test the feasibility of, using a five-prong approach, providing students high quality out-of-school of STEM/STEAM programming, connect STEM/STEAM to career education, provide mentorships, provide professional development for club educators, and provide incentives for internships and field experience for club members.

“This (grant) will bring all these pieces together for the Career Launch program

For Martin, while not downplaying the significant areas of focus, the grant will allow, for the first time, a chance for the club to generate concrete data on the outcomes of students who participate in the program.

“That was a piece we didn’t have,” said Martin adding that when applying for foundation grants, many want to see what kind of progress has been made in the past for other grant-funded projects.

“They always want to see that data,” she said referring to other foundations.

As for the areas of focus being studied during pilot project, she said the professional development was important.

This, she said, will allow the staff to better teach students.

The grant funding will also help the club pay for students’ internships at companies where they can learn more about potential careers.

On a personal note, Martin said she always wanted to secure a NSF grant, which she started on in 2016.

“It’s the next step for us…and opens so many doors for us,” she said.

The pilot project will be led by a collaborative partnership between the National Boys & Girls Clubs of America (which was instrumental said Martin in this successful application), Mount Wachusett Community College, Fitchburg State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute STEM Center, Becker College, The Central Mass STEM Network, the Fitchburg and Leominster Public School Districts, the Central Mass and Nashoba Valley Chambers of Commerce, MIT, Harvard, the UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, and others.

In the letter from the NSF announcing the successful grant application, the organization wrote: “This award reflect’s NSF’s statutory mission and has been worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.”


By Cliff Clark


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