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A new full-time position based at Evanston Township High School and funded by  Northwestern University will formalize and, both institutions hope, will strengthen the relationship between the University and the high school. It is part of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro’s “Good Neighbor, Great University” initiative.

Kristen Perkins of NU’s Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Partnerships is to serve as the Northwestern/ETHS partnership coordinator, says a Northwestern release. It says the new position “is designed to increase collaboration between NU and the high school and enhance ETHS learning opportunities.” The coordinator “will support ETHS teachers in science, mathematics, and career and technology education that pique the interests of ETHS students in STEM subjects,” and arrange for such experiences as field trips to NU labs or backstage tours of Northwestern theatre productions.

“The Northwestern and ETHS partnership will provide our high school students with cutting-edge learning experiences in academics, research and career exploration,” ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said. “Combining our resources, we’ll be able to accelerate programming and advanced learning and offer STEM opportunities rarely available to high school students anywhere.”

Improving STEM education and attracting more students to technical fields have become integral to local, state and national efforts in preparing young people for the 21st-century workforce. STEM encompasses a range of fields including the sciences, mathematics, engineering and computational thinking as well as design, manufacturing and robotics.

The position will expand student educational opportunities and support the school’s goal of producing STEM-literate graduates, added Peter Bavis, ETHS associate principal of teaching and learning.

STEM-related efforts between Northwestern and ETHS already are under way:  YouSTEM, a new after-school program at the high school made possible through a MacArthur Foundation grant to Northwestern, for example, aims to attract female and minority students and others who have shown little interest in STEM subjects.

YouSTEM is intended to make STEM education exciting to students who might otherwise avoid it. And it will answer questions Northwestern researchers ask, such as, “What entices reluctant STEM-learners to show up for a program?” or “What kinds of activities engage them?” and “What do they learn from them?”

“The new position will make ETHS’s successes become Northwestern’s successes and vice versa,” said Kemi Jona, director of NU’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships and research in the School of Education and Social Policy. “Our researchers stand to learn every bit as much as the high school students for whom these programs are designed.”

The partnership, says Northwestern, puts STEM education at ETHS at the forefront of the University’s efforts and allows ETHS students to be the first to benefit from innovations coming out of the University’s research.   It will also streamline the process of finding the right Northwestern resource to fulfill certain high school needs.