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Students From Boston Public Schools Explore STEM Futures at UMass Amherst

Students watching a demonstration
Zaria Alves (l.) watches a robotics demonstration

A group of students representing the inaugural cohort of Digital Ready's Year 13 program visited the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus on December 1. The Boston non-profit offers this program as a fellowship year that aims to provide seniors and recent graduates from historically underrepresented backgrounds in Boston Public Schools a head start to college and a STEM degree. The program's curriculum focuses on three primary areas of study--computer science, architecture and construction technology, and engineering technology. Upon completion of the program, participants emerge with eighteen college credits, making obtaining a college degree more accessible and affordable. 

Housed on the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst, Year 13 immerses students in an innovative community experience that seeks to equip them with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of a STEM-based career and provide them with the knowledge, support, and networks to pursue careers in Greater Boston's innovation economy. "We know that Boston has one of the most robust innovation economies in the world, yet who has access is very limited," says Sarah Cherry Rice, executive director of Digital Ready. "We need programs like Digital Ready to open up access to these tech jobs, where students will be at the forefront of creating change using technology."

During their visit to the Amherst campus, students explored classes with the Building and Construction Technology Department and concluded their trip with a visit to the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, where they toured robotics labs, engaged in a student panel discussion, and heard from speakers including Dean Laura Haas, career development staff, and Director of Diversity and Inclusive Community Development Erika Dawson-Head.

"Digital Ready is important because it opens the door and provides a passageway for students who might not have had one," says Dawson-Head. "We're proud that UMass can be part of a team with industry partners and Boston Public Schools that supports this important program and its talented students. Our college works to broaden participation in computing and this partnership is one of many important ways we can do it."

Zaria Alves, a recent high school graduate and current Year 13 fellow, aspires to partner her interest in sociology with the knowledge and skills she's developing in the program to help support and improve conditions in her community. "I could double-major now, which is something I didn't think of," states Alvez. "My mother never graduated school, and I didn't grow up with a lot of those kinds of influences. College seemed almost far-fetched. But with Digital Ready, I'm able to create a dream and make it all come true."

Learn more about the Digital Ready Year 13 Fellowship and see photos of the event.