Plans were unveiled Monday for a $22 million STEM hub at EastSide Charter, partly paid for by a $1 million donation from Barclays US Consumer Bank.
“What’s unique about this opportunity is that there are corporations that have already partnered with us,” said Aaron Bass, chief executive officer at EastSide, “to make sure that there is job training, internships and job fairs taking place so that anybody in Delaware has an entry point for STEM.”
The announcement was attended by Eastside community members, politicians and corporate officers.
The hub will be completed and opened by 2024, and Barclays’ $1 million will be distributed over the next three years.
Some of the hub’s state-of-the-art features will include a makers space, a TV studio, 3-dimensional printers, CFC cutters, four chemistry labs, coding stations and a green space.
EastSide’s partnership with Barclays started 20 years ago, when Barclays helped start a mentoring program.
“Barclays decided they wanted to have their staff be more involved with the community, and EastSide became a recipient of that support,” Bass said. “So, they have staff who have come out and have come in for the last 20 years to work with students.”
Barclays is renewing their commitment to the program, said Denny Nealon, chief executive officer at Barclays US Consumer Bank.
Each year, 20 to 80 students sign up to be mentees.
They are paired with a mentor who is a Barclays employee, EastSide parent, EastSide board member, community member, politician, lawyer, business leaders or simply someone who wants to volunteer his or her time.
“The mentorship program has opened up so many career pathways for me,” said Nasseem Matthews, a 2016 EastSide graduate, whose mentor was Charles McDowell.
McDowell, who is now on three EastSide Board committees, “gave me the proper guidance to narrow down what I wanted to do and pushed me to get me there.”
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A student typically will meet with his or her mentor at least once a week during their lunch block to discuss how the student is doing academically and socially.
Some mentors form close relationships with the students and will take them on field trips outside of school.
“He would come and pick me up on the weekends,” Matthews said. “I remember getting my permission slip signed so that I could still work with my mentor even in the summer. He would come pick me up on weekends, take me to a tutor or a field trip. We would often take nature walks, go golfing or attend other events for local organizations.”
Matthews is now a construction project coordinator at Battaglia Associates.
On Monday, Matthews encouraged attendees to sign up to be a mentor.
“You’re changing someone’s life, one day at a time,” he said. “That hour a week that you’re giving up to spend with a child – you’re changing their life..”
EastSide is partnered with the Wilmington Public Library to make the STEM hub a satellite site for them.
Anybody in the community can access the STEM hub just like you would do a library, Bass said.
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said the number one job of schools is to strengthen families.
“That’s exactly what the STEM hub and mentorship programs are doing here at EastSide,” he said.
Bass reminded the attendees that when EastSide opened in 1997, community leaders were sure that the school could not attract children and families.
“Now, we’ve been overenrolled for multiple years,” he said. “That’s what happens when you have courageous leadership. This is a wonderful day for the EastSide community.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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