Program develops STEM education policy leaders in Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Pa. – Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) has announced the Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors Program, which aims to shape the future of STEM education in the commonwealth by targeting vital policy conversations to legislative leadership in the areas of STEM learning ecosystems, computer science, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs.
“Afterschool and summer programs play a major role in providing meaningful science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences to diverse groups of youth and PSAYDN is proud to join the ambassadors and partners in this important work,” said PSAYDN director Laura Saccente.
Thirty-six ambassadors met for the program’s inaugural training session last week. They are leaders in higher education, business and industry, kindergarten through grade 12 education, afterschool and summer programs and early learning. The ambassadors will participate in the 10-month program to advance policy goals through outreach, education, targeted relationships with policymakers, and assume leadership responsibilities to develop a stronger voice in STEM education discussions and issues.
“With the recent budget announcement of Governor Wolf’s PAsmart initiative, a realignment of workforce development through career programs; and bipartisan support for essential workforce needs, the time is more crucial than ever to talk about STEM education,” Saccente said. “The PA STEM Ambassadors will be a vital part in shaping these policies.”
Partnerships with the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC), the national STEM Education Coalition, the Afterschool Alliance and staff from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, through the PA STEM Education Coalition, provide support for the program training.
Ron Cowell, president of EPLC, with expertise from 24 years of serving in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, lauded the program. “Informed and supportive public policies are vital to promoting STEM education throughout the commonwealth, and the new PA STEM Ambassadors Program will strengthen the advocacy effort to build effective relationships with lawmakers who decide these policies.”
During the program, Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors will be briefed on state and federal policy initiatives and lead advancement of STEM education policy priorities through various advocacy efforts.
“The STEM Education Coalition is proud to have such a great opportunity to engage with the Pennsylvania afterschool and STEM education communities,” said James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition. “Advocating the need for increased access to STEM education provides students, especially underrepresented groups, with innovative, hands-on learning opportunities that have been proven to improve skills and spark curiosity in students.”
Also serving as a facilitator, Stephanie Rodriguez, director of STEM Policy at the Afterschool Alliance, added, “Afterschool and summer programs work for increasing STEM identity and engagement, and reinforcing and supporting formal STEM learning. These programs are critical partners in a robust STEM ecosystem and require cross-sector support to reach their full potential. The Afterschool Alliance is thrilled to see such a diversity of stakeholders represented among the inaugural cohort PA STEM Ambassadors, and looks forward to offering training in support of their programmatic and policy efforts.”
The training event was hosted by Center for Schools and Communities, a statewide consulting and training organization that offers a continuum of services for education leadership, social and emotional learning, positive youth development, cultural competence, school safety and youth violence prevention, equity, family support and community service integration, and early childhood care and development.
Meet the 36 leaders named 2018 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors at www.psaydn.org.