Making Connections to Support STEM Transitions

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Strategy 4

A near-peer mentorship model to support transitions to STEM academic and career opportunities through mentorship

Making Connections, aims to understand and support transitions and handoffs that remove barriers and connect youth to STEM learning opportunities.

Understanding how to make connections across settings in systematic ways can support the study of, replication, and scaling of strategies for making connections across settings in out-of-school STEM learning.

Strategy 4: A near-peer mentorship model to support transitions to STEM academic and career opportunities through mentorship

Strategy 4 is a near-peer mentorship model that supports transitions to STEM academic and career opportunities through relationship building.

Why would you use this strategy?

Supporting transitions to STEM opportunities requires mentorship from people who can relate to youths’ experiences and help them refine their STEM interests toward future academic and career possibilities.

Who would use this strategy?

Networks and programs that need to find ways to build relationships with youth, connect with youth culture, and better understand their STEM related interest. It is also useful for networks and programs that have a pool of potential near-peer mentors.

“Let’s bring in teenagers who are from the community themselves, who love education, who are passionate about it and have a story to tell, and let them lead the way.”

-Joshua, The Career Academy

Target Outcomes

Important Considerations

Design Considerations at the Network Level

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Design Considerations at the Program Level

Case Study: Peer Brokering Opportunities Across Settings: “If We’re Not Paying Them, We’re Not Going to Get Them.” Strategically Connecting The Career Academy and The Malone Center through an Incentivized Near-Peer Mentorship Model in Nebraska’s Beyond School Bells

Supporting Transitions from The Malone Center to The Career Academy through a Near-Peer Mentorship Model

A key design principle of making connections, brokering across settings, focuses on how individuals connect youth to specific learning opportunities beyond their organizations. Brokering can occur through peer-to-peer relationships (e.g., one youth telling another about a STEM summer camp opportunity) or through mentor or educator-initiated means (e.g., a teacher referring a student to a robotics after school program).

Brokering emphasizes the interpersonal ways peers and mentors connect youth to additional opportunities to help youth build relationships that expand their current networks. Equity-oriented practices like brokering support youth identity development, social capital building, and interest-driven learning through connecting youth to tangible learning opportunities.

A partnership between The Career Academy (TCA) and The Malone Center (also, Malone Community Center or Malone) brokered and coordinated through Nebraska’s Beyond School Bells, presents a near-peer mentoring program that exemplifies how brokering within the program can support STEM transitions for girls to academic and career opportunities.  As a dual-credit institution, TCA functions as a partnership between Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College. At TCA, high school juniors and seniors choose their own career pathways and take courses aligned with particular specialties that introduce them to specific STEM-related careers and also offer college credit. 

Through a partnership with Malone fostered by the BSB network connection, TCA’s near-peer mentorship program model began to take shape to support STEM transitions for girls between Malone and TCA . Girls from Malone (grades 3-8) meet with TCA near-peer mentors three times a month to learn about different STEM opportunities through TCA.

Connections between and across STEM learning settings and experiences can promise to foster meaningful, lifelong STEM learning for youth, yet the detailed and concrete mechanisms for how this learning is connected remains unclear. Little is known about how STEM learning is connected in systematic and sustainable ways.

Making Connections, aims to understand and support transitions and handoffs that remove barriers for youth by connecting STEM learning across ages and settings, ensuring youth interest and motivation persists.

These products are based on research conducted through a collaboration between the Connected Learning Lab at University of California Irvine and STEM Next and their regional partners. It was made possible thanks to the generous support of The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Samueli Foundation.

Strategy four is is one of eight still-evolving strategies, for coordinating and brokering connections across settings in STEM ecosystems. These are intended to serve as tools for making connections across settings to support STEM transitions and unlock academic, workforce-related, and civic opportunities for all youth, especially underrepresented groups like girls, youth of color, and youth from low-income families.

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