Clarksville, TN – During the long months of this COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Meagan Mann, Austin Peay State University (APSU) associate professor of chemistry, has noticed a common theme in her social media feeds – parents of school-aged children are frustrated.
“If you just went online at all in the past 12 months, you see nothing but parents complaining about remote learning,” she said. “It’s on almost every social media account. It has got to be really bad.”
These distraught status updates prompted Mann to apply for a competitive grant from Google, and this spring, the giant technology company awarded her $40,000 to provide free Algebra I and chemistry tutoring to local high school students.
The grant program, “Operation: STEM Success,” provides one-hour, online tutoring sessions to students needing help in one or both of these subjects. According to the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, high school students are struggling the most with Algebra I and chemistry during this pandemic.
“They’re difficult to teach online because they’re hard for people – the learning curve on those subjects is particularly high,” she said. “By far and large, most people know how to read so the parents aren’t intimidated by English. They might not be great at it, but they’re more willing to dive in to help.”
Now, with “Operation: STEM Success,” high school students can receive help from Austin Peay’s top students majoring in STEM fields. These APSU students, which Mann refers to as “near-peer mentors,” went through a rigorous application process to become tutors. They also received background checks, and they’ll work closely with mentor teachers from the school system.
The APSU student mentors are being paid through the grant, but more importantly for Mann, they’re also receiving valuable teaching experience.
“It’s going to make them more competitive for graduate schools and finding a job,” she said. “You put that together with getting paid, and that’s really a sweet deal. It’s a win-win for our students and the school system.”
More than 50 high school students from across the county have already signed up for the free tutoring, and Mann said the program has room for as many as 120 high school students. For information on the program, including how to sign up, visit wwwapsu.edu/costem/operation-stem-success.php.
Austin Peay also received Google community grants to support the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology’s summer coding camps and a new makerspace at the Austin Peay State University GIS Center. Both projects are in development.