United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

Posted on October 2, 2015

BoSTEM, Boston Public Schools & Vertex announce partnership to close STEM achievement gap

BoSTEM launch for WebBoston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang and Vertex Executive Vice President, Global Research and Chief Scientific Officer David Altshuler, M.D., Ph.D. today joined leaders of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Citizen Schools and Boston After School & Beyond to announce BoSTEM, an innovative new partnership to provide all Boston public middle school students with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experience by 2020.

“I am thrilled to announce this partnership that will help not only help close the STEM achievement gap, but will also open the doors of opportunity for so many of our young students,” said Mayor Walsh. “I thank Vertex for their partnership and for their commitment to investing in Boston’s future generation by helping them prepare for the cutting-edge STEM jobs of tomorrow.”

As a local program, BoSTEM aims to ensure 100% of Boston’s middle school students have the opportunity to participate in expanded STEM learning experiences by 2020.  These experiences are hands-on learning opportunities involving corporate volunteers, teachers and nonprofit staff that give students the chance to apply math and science skills in exciting, real-world contexts through a combination of activities in both school and out-of-school settings. Today, these hands-on STEM learning opportunities are only available to 6% of Boston students through out-of-school time programing.  BoSTEM hopes to reach 10,000 BPS middle school students on an annual basis by 2020, providing them all STEM experiences that pique their interest in the STEM fields.

“As a former biology teacher, I know first-hand how science can motivate and inspire learning,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tommy Chang.  “To ensure that all students can excel in science and math, and help close the achievement gap, it will truly take a culture of ‘we.’ The Boston Public Schools is so excited to be expanding STEM learning opportunities to more of our students. We are grateful to Vertex and all of our partners and their dedicated mentors for making this happen.”

Vertex, already an established leader in STEM education initiatives for high school and college students, has signed on as the first industry partner of this coalition and will provide support to launch the new initiative.

“For people to recognize that there are many exciting career opportunities available to them in science – it is critical to expose them at an early age,” said David Altshuler, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Global Research and Chief Scientific Officer of Vertex.  “As a scientist and educator for nearly 30 years, I have seen how important hands-on learning can be in inspiring young people to pursue a career in science. Vertex’s existing partnership with Boston Public Schools has brought this hands-on STEM education approach to over 500 high school students in Boston. We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh, Superintendent Chang and BoSTEM to help expand opportunities for younger students.”

BoSTEM is a coalition of over a dozen high-performing nonprofits and a growing list of local corporations who are committing time, expertise and other support to help the Boston Public Schools (BPS) close gaps in student learning, and increase career readiness and interest in STEM sector fields.  The coalition formed in response to the US2020 challenge put forth by the White House to generate large-scale, innovative solutions to STEM education challenges in the United States.

“We envision a city where all of our young people graduate high school college- and career-ready,” said Michael K. Durkin, President at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “But together, we can do more than any of us can alone.  BoSTEM brings together educators, industry & corporate partners, volunteers and community-based organizations to prepare today’s middle school students for the workforce opportunities of tomorrow.  Together, we can create change that has a lasting effect on our future economic vitality.”

“For twenty years, we have seen how motivating it is for our students to work alongside business professionals,” added Pat Kirby, Chief Growth Officer at Citizen Schools.  “Offering students a chance to build solar cars with engineers, analyze stock portfolios with bankers, or study germ samples with chemists in pharmaceutical labs gives students a chance to apply what they learn in school in real world contexts while inspiring them about the jobs of the future.  We applaud Vertex for its leadership and foresight in stepping up to be the first of many companies to join the BoSTEM coalition.”

“Young people need a set of skills to succeed in school, college, work, and life,” said Chris Smith, Executive Director of Boston After School & Beyond. “The hands-on nature of STEM programs enable students to make real-world connections to academic content and to develop vital social-emotional skills that are necessary for future success.”