Tell us a little about your background and how The NET Mentoring Group was started.
I was born and raised in Boston, MA and went to the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science for high school. For college, I attended the University of Massachusetts Lowell for Mechanical Engineering and graduated in 2015. Once I was in college, I realized that there weren’t many underrepresented minorities or women in the STEM fields. The attrition rate in engineering for students of color was alarmingly high, and I began to wonder why this issue existed to the extent that it did. I started to research the achievement and opportunity gaps and met with community educators to gain an understanding of educational disparity.
I realized it was an immensely complex problem. Educational inequality is not just a result of systemic challenges, but also social and economic factors as well. This problem is a complex and multifaceted one that I knew would require creative solutions that would address both systemic and socioeconomic factors.
Another factor I began to consider as a result of discussions and experiences I had as a member of education advocacy groups in Boston were the issues of STEM awareness and the continuity, or lack thereof, in access to STEM resources for students in the city. For that reason, baked into our model at The NET was an emphasis on continuity and student retention. With the intent to retain students from late middle school years into their high school careers and in connecting our students to existing STEM resources in Boston, we hoped to create both continuous mentor relationships with our students as well as continuous relationships and access between our students and other resources in Boston.
we hoped to create both continuous mentor relationships with our students as well as continuous relationships and access between our students and other resources in Boston.Jamal Grant
There’s a lot of great resources in Boston, but they’re not necessarily linked together as well as they could be. As our program moves forward out of our infancy, we intend for The NET to play a connecting-type role between other programs in the Greater Boston area. Our website isn’t there yet, but we aspire to make it a one-stop-shop for STEM resources in the Boston area. We want to create a network of organizations that can work together in a way that optimizes their collective resources to support students in the city. Between our mentoring, STEM programming and our “connector” approach, we are aspiring to make a significant impact in the STEM achievement and opportunity gap.
What programs have you done with the students?
Some activities we have done at The NET are taking students to STEM field trips. We’ve taken our students to the Google office in Cambridge where the students had the opportunity to tour the facility and engage in some introductory computer programming. We’ve done forensic science crime scene investigation activities, where students conducted fingerprinting, fake blood analysis, and different CSI techniques to solve a case. We also have built rockets that flew 500+ feet for a rocket launch competition last year. In the coming years, we hope to step back and do some more in-depth strategic planning to ensure that we continue on a positive track to getting students interested and prepared to enter STEM fields.
How did you get interested in Mechanical Engineering?
My passion for engineering started when I was at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. It started in 7th grade when I was involved in science and engineering activities after-school, and that sparked my interest. We were building electronics and random things like that, and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t know it was a career until a teacher mentioned to me that the activities that we were doing were engineering activities. I was like “What? What’s that?” I was still unsure if I’d pursue engineering as I had other significant interests as well, but I decided to go to the engineering route as a result of exposure to STEM careers, advice from mentors and enjoyment I had in engineering programs throughout high school.
Visit The NET’s website to learn more:
Interested in joining the STEAM Boston Community, then visit this link: https://community.steamboston.com/
You will have the opportunity to expand your network and connect with students & professionals in the STEAM field in the Greater Boston area.