MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Mystic Aquarium has received a $3 million competitive grant to develop and implement an innovative, conservation-based, science, technology, engineering, and math group mentoring initiative for youth.
Congressman Joseph Courtney announced that the STEM program aims to positively impact the social development and academic achievement of at-risk and high-risk youth, by connecting them with mentors. These weekly sessions would allow mentors and mentees to work together in a safe and stimulating after-school environment as a part of the innovative conservation science curriculum.
“Mystic Aquarium has long been a pillar of our local tourism sector, and a leader in undersea research, but the educational programming they provide for Connecticut students is unparalleled. This grant will help expand access to the inventive and inspiring educational offerings to students across the country-helping to instill a lifelong passion for learning,” said Courtney. “The National STEM Council has noted that early outreach to young girls and minority students must be a critical priority to advance STEM skills in the classroom, and partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of America will help reach these populations.”
“This is the largest single grant in the history of Mystic Aquarium. This grant will allow Mystic Aquarium to develop and implement our newly conceived International Youth Conservation Program, working with Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the United States. The program is innovative in its emphasis of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to engage young people in conservation of their local ecosystems,” said Mystic Aquarium’s President and CEO, Dr. Stephen M. Coan.
The program will engage at least 672 mentors and 2,688 mentees, ages six through twelve, in more than 56 Boys and Girls Clubs in 36 states. These Clubs will receive funding through this grant to seed the investment and support their program implementation.
The formal programming will kick-off in December with a national conference where program staff from each site will be trained in the conservation science components and best practices in mentoring. Staff will then return to their sites to train their mentors and facilitate the weekly group mentoring sessions for a full year. All elements of the program are aimed at building STEM skills in youth, while fostering conservation-minded citizens of the future.