Better Together: Kids are the winners thanks to UNH STEM Lab collaborative partners

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Students learn to solder with one of the STEM Lab’s advisory board members. Courtesy Photo

When I did my student teaching at a middle school in Manchester, I remember many days of feeling overwhelmed by the challenges some students faced. The onset of adolescence alone can be a turbulent time. Combine that with factors such as financial instability, trauma, mental health issues and lack of support systems, and it can become a nearly impossible time for youth to navigate successfully.

Emily Kerr and Sarah Grosvenor, of UNH STEM Lab showing off their Granite United Way pride. Courtesy Photo

That’s why I’m grateful to be part of Granite United Way’s Youth Enrichment Partnership, the goal of which is to support low-income middle school youth and families by providing year-round and city-wide opportunities that promote long-term success. This partnership is a hub and spoke model, in which a variety of community partner spokes — such as us at the STEM Discovery Lab — provide services in and out of these identified hubs: Boys and Girls Club of Manchester, INTI Academy, Manchester Police Athletic League, ROCA Kidz Club and the Granite YMCA.

STEM Lab presents Seaperch at the YMCA.

Our role is to provide STEM enrichment and professional development. We are currently running a Seaperch underwater robotics program at the YMCA with students from both the Y’s Teen Center and INTI Academy. Every Monday, the students gather to build their Seaperch remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and learn about engineering concepts.

“Ray” focused on soldering.

But STEM enrichment is just a tiny piece of this project. Other organizations are providing mental health services, offering in school and academic supports, creating a community chorus, leading equestrian therapy, establishing clubs and educating on healthy media use. To collaborate with these partners has been an inspiring and humbling experience, and I’m amazed at the ideas generated the work done so far.

The dedication and commitment of the partners is remarkable. Having a common goal is allowing all of us to work in more creative ways and to deepen already established relationships. The best part is that we all refer to the youth as “our kids.” I’m hopeful that by working together we will create more opportunities for our kids that will ensure their social, emotional and academic success in middle school and beyond.

In her role as the STEM Discovery Lab Coordinator, Emily supports the collaborative effort between UNH Cooperative Extension and UNH Manchester of the STEM Discovery Lab located on the Manchester campus. Emily was an English as a Second Language and English Language Learner educator for youth and adults in the greater Manchester and Seacoast areas for over 8 years and was the project assistant for the GATE CITY Project (Getting All Teachers ESOL Certified in Two Years) at UNH Manchester from 2012 to 2015. Emily earned her B.A. in international studies from The Ohio State University and her M.Ed. in secondary education from UNH Manchester. She is the mother of two active teenage boys and loves spending time outdoors.

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