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BPS interns gain STEM experience with MBTA

Nate Homan | 8/27/2014, 11:43 a.m.
The MBTA TranSTEM Summer Youth Employment Program gives Boston Public School students valuable experience in the science and technology behind ...
The graduating class of the TranSTEM program, city councilors, MBTA officials and school department representatives celebrated the student’s achievements on August 22.

The graduation march, Pomp and Circumstance, played over the overhead speakers as Madison Park Technical Vocational High School students graduated from the MBTA’s TranSTEM Summer Youth Employment Program on Friday, August 22.

The TranSTEM program is a seven-week internship for Madison Park students to work hands-on at the MBTA. Madison Park was selected because of its focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program is based on the first TranSTEM public transportation education curriculum founded at Cardoza High School in Washington, D.C.

“We are very serious about working to establish and pilot a pathway from the schools directly into the transportation field,” MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said.

“The idea, when you begin to talk about the workforce, you see that young people and the general public don’t have a clue about everything that’s involved in public transportation, mainly because it’s not their field of focus,” Scott said. “Most of the times, transportation doesn’t have much of a profile and so all the things we can do with this partnership will open a new door for a new generation of sharp minds. We’re testing hybrid, we have compressed natural gas, solar panels. There’s so much room for great minds.”

The program is a collaborative effort between the MBTA, MassDepartment of Transportation, Madison Park, Roxbury Community College, the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The program started as a school tour through the MBTA facilities and evolved into a gateway for students to gain experience with the equipment that keeps the MBTA system running, from the switchboards to energy efficiency initiatives.

The students worked together to create a campaign of courtesy posters in order to encourage children in their age groups to keep the cars clean, not to talk on cell phones too loudly, allow people to sit down and other quick bits of ethical advice.

“These kids had a chance to work on something that they grew up with,” Scott said. “They all know and use the T as a vital part of their daily lives. They know the role it plays in their friends, families and communities livelihood.”

Secretary of Education Mathew Malone praised the students for stepping out of their comfort zone and into such a demanding environment.

“These students learned some real world work, solving real world problems, working in teams with adults with a mission in mind,” Malone said. “When we put young people in these environments, they learn and they grow. They go on to do better in all of the other skills we measure from coming to school on time to test taking.”

The program began in Boston a year and a half ago and is aiming to be implemented Commonwealth-wide. The idea is to send the students on a career path in their city in a field that will always need attentive minds to come up with solutions and new ideas.

“Over the next few years, we will build the most amazing TranSTEM pathway in the country with our friends and partners at Madison Park, the state, the city, Roxbury Community College and the MBTA,” Malone said. “There’s a whole lot of jobs in our own city for these students, blended learning, with a real focus and practical application, making a pathway to the future. “Good communities are filled with good people who come together in support of good ideas. This is a long march to close achievement gaps and community gaps.”

City Councilor Tito Jackson told the students that the most valued asset in Massachusetts is human capital.

“You’re learning a life lesson early,” Jackson said. “There’s a whole lot of folks who want to characterize you as anything but what you are. What I have seen today is your beauty, which is in your talents, your intelligence, your dedication, and your ability to deal with the adversity head on. We know you’re the future of this city. We have your backs because you’re the future of the State of Massachusetts.”

Jackson and City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said that the council will honor the graduating class at City Hall in the near future.

“Our students have shown what they can do when the opportunity presents itself,” Madison Park Principal Diane Ross Gary said.

“By the time you get to school this year, people are going to know who you all are. They’ll be talking about you and what you’ve done.”