Sowing A Passion for STEM

Saint Joseph’s University welcomes an AmeriCorps VISTA member to coordinate outreach programming

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Saint Joseph’s University has welcomed an AmeriCorps VISTA member, Ashley Bliss, to help coordinate science education outreach activities for the  2018-19 academic year. 

Bliss, of Neptune, New Jersey, will assess needs of university and school partners and develop a plan to help insure sustainability of outreach activities that began with grant funding. Her position is supported by Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents that is committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education.

“The welcome from the SJU community has been amazing,” says Bliss. “I am excited to see how this project can grow throughout the year.”

SJU students are involved in a number of activities  with Samuel Gompers Elementary School (K-8) and Overbrook High School. Collaborations include the GEAR UP college readiness program, Seedlings elementary in-class hands-on science lessons and field trips to visit SJU’s lab facilities. 

“Education outreach provides a great opportunity for science students to bring fun, hands-on science to kids that improve their learning outcomes,” says Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor of biology and the VISTA supervisor. “At the same time, SJU students learn valuable communication and leadership skills. Participation also helps them remember why they got interested in science in the first place and strengthens their identities as scientists.”

AmeriCorps VISTA is about building capacity in organizations that fight poverty.  Bliss’ is the first of three year-long AmeriCorps VISTA positions, each tasked with the next phase of program development. By the end of this year, Bliss hopes to build a list of materials that can help the outreach programs be more efficient and effective at serving the needs of local children and teachers.  Over the subsequent two years the materials will be tested and refined, with the goal of building sustainable programming that brings SJU students into the nearby schools for years. 

“We’re in this for the long haul,” says Snetselaar.

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