Math, science learning group launches at SMCC

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A new nonprofit agency hopes to facilitate extracurricular science and math learning for Maine students.

The Reach Center launched Tuesday at a conference at the SEA Center at Southern Maine Community College. The group, a joint project of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, is funded by an anonymous 10-year gift of $3.2 million.

The group aims to engage students who show an aptitude in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or STEM.

“We want to double the number of high-achieving (STEM) students,” said Jan Mokros, executive director of MMSA and co-director of the Reach Center. “… We see ourselves as the link connecting pathways for students.”

The idea is for the Reach Center to work with students in cobbling together mentorship programs, online opportunities, after-school programs, internships and other arrangements to advance STEM skills for students grades 5-12.

But that idea isn’t quite fully formed yet, Mokros said. For one, the group has no concrete plan in place for how to reach pupils. Mokros said for now they’d be looking to contact students already involved in STEM learning outside schools in science camps, for example.

The Reach Center also will hold a design conference in February with more than 50 STEM educators to help hash out the details.

“Kids develop interests when they are young,” said Muna El-Taha, a 17-year-old Falmouth High School student who wants to study architecture. “Those interests will stick when they’re older, if they are supported.”

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen was on hand for the launch. He told the crowd that fostering STEM-savvy students is key to meeting the state’s future economic goals.

“In these areas, job prospects are good. Salaries are good,” he said. “But we don’t have the students. … (With this group), I think you’ll see dramatic improvements.”

For more information about The Reach Center, visit www.reachcenter.me.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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