January 10, 2017

Opening Doors for the Next Generation of STEM

By Robin Andrews, Corporate Secretary, Astellas USA Foundation

Robin Andrews: Doors for the Next Generation of STEM

Robin Andrews has dedicated her life and passion to charitable work since she was a child. Growing up on a farm in rural Indiana, Robin was inspired early by her father and grandmother, both of whom were actively involved in community service, to pursue a life of helping those in need. Now corporate secretary of Astellas USA Foundation, Robin is proof that values and interests instilled in early childhood can have an influence across a lifetime. She explains how the Foundation’s commitment to inspiring interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with today’s youth is helping the next generation pursue jobs in STEM to build a more sustainable future.

“I was raised in a family that incorporated charitable work into their day-to-day lives. My father served as the local county commissioner and was chair of the community action committee for 13 years, donating his time to creating charitable programs. Meanwhile, my grandmother served as a volunteer nurse at the local hospital, and helped me secure a weekly volunteer nurse position. I spent eight hours a week, while still in high school, alongside her through the American Red Cross. My experiences growing up helped me realize that I wanted to serve my community, and so my career in charitable work began, ultimately leading me to Astellas USA Foundation to help put life-changing programs in place.

As Astellas USA Foundation corporate secretary, I review grant requests to determine which partnerships will have the greatest impact on our strategic goals. Some of our latest developments include building out our strategic focus areas and launching the Science WoRx™ platform. Science WoRx™ reflects our commitment to fund STEM education programs, with the goal of providing schools, teachers and students with the hands-on STEM curriculum, resources and mentors they need to flourish. This year, I was able to leverage the new platform to focus on bringing equal education opportunities for all students, giving them their best opportunity to succeed, while leading the launch of the Rural Spark Project™, aimed at addressing the specific gap we’ve identified between quality STEM education and a community's income and location.

Robin Andrews: Africa Trip

Research from the National Center for Education Statistics shows rural school graduates are less likely to have completed high school science classes, and that rural schools often struggle to attract and retain science teachers. Through a grant to Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the Rural Spark Project™ seeks to change the shape of STEM learning in targeted rural areas for middle and high school students by supporting invigorating teacher training, curriculum and tools used in the classroom and the community.

This passion for STEM education and the Rural Spark Project™ has been inspired by my own experiences growing up in a rural farm community. As a child, my brother struggled to find the resources he needed to support his interest in STEM fields because his teachers simply didn’t have the tools or programs to keep him engaged. It wasn’t until my mother drove him two hours each Saturday to a computer programming class at a local university that he received the education he deserved, which led to a STEM career.

Robin Andrews: Changing Tomorrow Day Volunteer

Unfortunately, not all children are afforded this opportunity, which is why Science WoRx™ and the Rural Spark Project™ are so important for reaching the students who need it most.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that nearly 80 percent of future jobs will require STEM skills, yet the U.S. Department of Education reports only 16 percent of high school seniors are proficient in math. The field is constantly evolving and changing, and so its curriculum and educational resources must do the same for people from all backgrounds and regions.

That's why we fund organizations to help children of all ages and backgrounds receive hands-on learning opportunities.

The iBIO Institute EDUCATE Center was one of our first Science WoRx™ partners. EDUCATE's Stellar Girls after-school program introduces girls to "Big Ideas" in STEM fields and provides training for teachers. Through weekly hands-on experiments, Stellar Girls helps build awareness of the exciting careers in science-based industries, while closing the gender gap.

Robin Andrews: Hospital Guest Appearance

Meanwhile, our support of The Cove School helps ensure all students, regardless of special needs or disabilities, receive the training in line with their needs to enter a STEM field.

Along with our partnerships, we offer a comprehensive set of online resources to help teachers develop lesson plans, classroom games and more. And our Science WoRx™ mentor program enlists the help of inspiring professionals in STEM fields, who offer advice and ideas to help children see STEM topics in a new light.

Together with our partners we are raising the next generation of scientists, problem solvers and leaders."