Program helps develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) policy leaders in Pennsylvania and recognizes 35 members of the fourth cohort.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) today announced the fourth cohort of 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, apprenticeships, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs. The cohort gathers on the heels of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s February proposal of a $1.35 billion budget increase for schools across the state aimed at addressing inequities that have historically impacted poorer districts. In 2020, Governor Wolf stressed the critical role that STEM programming plays in the future success of Pennsylvania youth, and the commonwealth as a whole. “To keep pace with a changing economy,” Wolf said, “we must continue to grow our supply of skilled workers by expanding STEM and computer science education, increasing apprenticeships and improving collaboration with job training.”
“Afterschool programs, during the school year and the summer, offer young people meaningful and creative opportunities to engage in science, technology, engineering and math. PSAYDN is proud to support and partner with the STEM Ambassadors who will champion and advocate for STEM education policies at the state and federal level,” said PSAYDN Associate Director Steven Williams.
The 35 members of the cohort participating in the 10-month program include representatives from K-12, business and industry, early and adult education, and afterschool and out-of-school time programming. Ambassadors will serve as role models and mentors, empowering youth to look toward a bright future in STEM while working to build a coalition of local and regional support for STEM education initiatives and advance policy goals through outreach, education, and targeted relationships with policymakers.
“With bipartisan support for a wide array of STEM initiatives, workforce development measures, and economic recovery and development — PA STEM Ambassadors, have already, and will continue to play a major role in shaping STEM education policy,” Williams said.
Program training is made possible through a partnership with the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and the national STEM Education Coalition.
Ron Cowell, president of EPLC, with expertise from 25 years of serving in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, lauded the program. “Policymakers in state government and on school boards are making decisions that shape the availability and quality of STEM education, and the PA STEM Ambassadors Program and its participants are significant advocacy partners building relationships with policymakers to improve STEM education for Pennsylvania’s students.”
Throughout the program, Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors will be briefed on state and federal policy initiatives and take a leadership role in advancing STEM Education policy priorities through various advocacy streams.
“The STEM Ambassadors program has been instrumental in elevating the conversation about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math in Pennsylvania,” said James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition. It brings together leaders from business, education and the STEM professions, provides them with training to engage policymakers effectively, and keeps them up to date on the latest developments in education statewide and nationally. This has been a winning formula for shaping policy in Pennsylvania for the better.”
Serving as a facilitator, Chris Neitzey, director of STEM Policy at the Afterschool Alliance, added, “It’s been a pleasure to work with PSAYDN and the Pennsylvania STEM Ambassadors over the years and I’m looking forward to continuing our support with the 2021 cohort. The role afterschool and summer programs play in providing hands-on STEM learning is critical to inspiring our next generation of problem solvers. We need more voices across the education ecosystem championing the need for more STEM learning for youth and the STEM Ambassadors have been a model program for empowering those voices.”
The training is hosted by Center for Schools and Communities staff, a statewide training and consulting organization that offers a continuum of efforts around social and emotional learning, positive youth development, school safety and youth violence prevention, cultural competence, equity, education leadership, family support and community service integration, and early childhood care and development. To this date, more than 90 statewide STEM leaders have gone through the program.
Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) promotes sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families. PSAYDN believes all children and youth deserve access to programs that encourage positive youth development and support the successful transition to adulthood. PSAYDN is managed by the Center for Schools and Communities. More information is available at PSAYDN.