LEXINGTON, Kentucky (September 21, 2022) — In recognition of its strong commitment to student success, the University of Kentucky’s STEM Through Authentic Research and Training (START) program was awarded the Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) Golden Apple Award.
The Golden Apple Award recognizes high-performing programs and organizations that partner with FCPS to advance education and mentorship opportunities for students in the community. Members of the UK START program received the award on Wednesday, September 14 at the FCPS State of the Schools Address event.
“It’s a fantastic honor for the program and the efforts of everyone involved,” said Luke Bradley, Ph.D., acting chairman and professor of neuroscience at the UK College of Medicine. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of others and partnerships across campus and with the community.
The UK START program is a collaboration between UK colleges and local organizations to improve pathways to college for first-generation and traditionally underrepresented students. The program emphasizes introducing students early to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by integrating academic, social, and professional experiences.
Faculty and staff involved in the program provide outreach, hands-on experiences, training, and activities in campus labs and connect students with STEM professionals. Since its launch during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has provided these opportunities to more than 1,200 students in Lexington school systems.
Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, Ph.D., professor of STEM education and associate dean at the UK College of Education, said local K-12 students benefit from living in a community with a major research university. like the UK. This provides opportunities for partnerships designed “to help young people see the possibilities they can pursue”.
“Rich partnerships, such as the START partnership, are important because they actively work to disrupt the systems that make some young people feel like STEM careers aren’t for them or don’t belong,” said Mohr-Schroeder. “This is especially important for populations that are marginalized or traditionally underrepresented in STEM.”
Lordina Mensah, currently an undergraduate student at Lewis Honors College majoring in engineering and STEM education, was introduced to STEM by attending STEM summer camps for elementary, middle and high school students led by Mohr -Schroeder, then continuing through the START program in high school. She will continue her involvement in the program as a quasi-peer mentor for future START students.
“I want to become a STEM engineer and educator to introduce and support minority and underrepresented children in STEM,” Mensah said. “I want to give back to the community that has supported me throughout my journey.”
START program students have the unique experience of being both a near-peer participant and leader for other students.
“This program is not just about empowering students; it’s about showing students that they are valued members of the STEM community. They have a lot to contribute, including “paying it forward” to future generations,” Bradley said. “While we see strong growth in the number of students exposed to STEM experiences, when we add close peer mentoring, that’s when we see students flourish.”
The START program is housed in the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience and is led by faculty and staff from the College of Medicine, the College of Education and the Department of Transformative Learning’s Integrated Success Coaching. It is funded by a five-year, $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health.
Local organizations involved in UK START include FCPS, Lexington Academies, STEAM Academy, The Learning Center, the Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, Higher Orbits and Space Tango, a Lexington-based STEM society.
For more information on the UK START programme, or how you can get involved, visit https://start.uky.edu.
The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number R25GM132961. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.