The Biogen Foundation is excited to be launching the STAR Initiative – a coordinated funding strategy, investing $10 million over four years - designed to help catalyze the development of local STEM ecosystems in Cambridge and Somerville. STAR - which stands for Science, Teacher support, Access and Readiness - is intended to strengthen and support the educational landscapes in these cities by helping increase access to STEM resources and opportunities for students most underrepresented in STEM college or career pathways.
While employment in STEM fields is growing and projected to continue growing, students from under-resourced communities are disproportionately unexposed to and unprepared for STEM careers. Enrichment opportunities that prepare young people for success in STEM education are limited, and primarily directed towards students already equipped with strong academic skills and access to professional networks.
The Foundation’s STAR initiative addresses this disparity by supporting the development a coordinated ecosystem of organizations that help low-income students develop and sustain their interest in STEM, gain necessary STEM exposure and enrichment opportunities, and successfully transition into post-secondary education in pursuit of STEM careers.
The STAR model is based on research of what students need to be successful in STEM, and the growth of a national STEM ecosystem-building movement:
- Through “Student & Teacher Support,” STAR addresses students’ need for STEM awareness and hands-on learning experiences.
- Through “Mentorship,” STAR addresses the cultivation of STEM motivation and interest in students.
- Through “College Access,” STAR addresses students’ need for awareness and information of educational and career options.
Coordinating the STAR Network
A key distinguishing characteristic of the STAR initiative is the intentional level of coordination Biogen Foundation will provide for STAR grantees and the schools they partner with. Coordination will consist of, but may not be limited to:
- Working with grantees to develop common/aligned outcome(s)
- Guiding grantees in determining/developing common performance measurement metrics and processes for grantees to capture agreed upon outcome(s)
- Facilitating regular meetings/conversations amongst grantees to ensure data is being captured, address challenges and share learnings
- Developing and maintaining relationships with school districts and participating schools to get feedback on impact of initiative, and play liaising role between schools & STAR nonprofit grantees
- Engaging additional key stakeholders in each city who should be involved, formally and informally, in the STAR network