Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club executive director honored at Statehouse

By MONICA BUSCH | Sentinel & Enterprise
March 4, 2020

LEOMINSTER — Donata Martin, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner, received a Black Excellence on the Hill award last month, when she was honored for her work with North Central Mass. youth.

“Each and every day, Ms. Martin works with her team to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens,” read a description of her from the event’s Feb. 11 program.

Martin was nominated for the award by state Reps. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, and Susannah Whipps, R-Athol.

“It was quite an honor to be recognized by the state folks,” Martin said on Wednesday. She said that while she works with state officials, “you never really know how much people notice.”

Martin was named executive director of her local Boys & Girls Club branch in 2009, and since then she has worked to promote intensive and extensive Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) program at their facility.

In part, she said, this is the product of her own love for science, which she said began when she was a child and would attend events at the Boston Museum of Science.

“I just felt that if I had that excitement as a child, other children would as well, and that’s what we’ve found here — that they do,” Martin said.

Sparking that interest in children at the Boys & Girls Club, she said, is also about promoting basic critical thinking and problem solving skills, even if club members don’t necessarily realize at first that that’s what they’re learning.

Many of them spend their time at the club participating in a slew of STEAM projects, whether that’s building robots, caring for trout, 3D printing or painting in the art room, Martin said.

“They really do need to problem solve, so they learn the engineering method and the scientific method without even knowing that they are learning engineering or scientific methods,” Martin said.

Martin is visibly enthusiastic when describing the multitude of STEAM programming available to club members, and grows excited when sharing her hopes for expanding their offerings. One area she really wants to get into is artificial intelligence (AI), building on already extensive and accomplished robotics and coding programming.

In the art realm, she said, she’d like to start incorporating more music, and possibly drama.

She likened children’s brains to chalkboards that she and other staff members have the opportunity to write on.

“You expose them to as much as you can educationally and see where it goes,” Martin said. “And you really do spark a lot of interest in different fields.”

The Boys & Girls Club provides programming for children and teens, many of whom attend the center five days a week, and sometimes on Saturday.

Martin said she plans to continue diversifying their project areas for as long as she heads the Twin Cities branch, always working “to open their minds to different fields of science.”