a win-win-win situation

Thinking about pitching our program to some new branches of the University we partner with. And I can’t get out of my head why this program is so powerful, and why I feel confident convincing anyone of its worth.
To me, it is a win-win-win situation.

Start off with the community. They receive undergraduate role models for instructors. Free supplies and materials to create interesting projects with. A fun, engaging activity for the whole family – an opportunity to interact beyond dinner and TV. Content knowledge and specific research conversations that few beyond academia are engaging in. For them, it is a win.

Then there are the engineers – instructors, mentors, volunteers. They are exposed to families the would not normally engage. They are forced to provide clear, simple explanations of content knowledge – and because this is so challenging, they naturally increase their understanding of the topic. They are beloved by parents and children who appreciate their time and willingness to share ideas with them. They make a difference in a relational way, rather than donating money or showing up for a one day event. They walk away understanding some of the challenges the community faces – lack of formal education, inability to communicate clearly in the same language, lack of jobs and medical care – all the while placing names and faces to the problems, rather than a pie chart in the LA Times. For them, it is a win.

And then there is the biggest winner. The University. Not only are they appreciated by the community for the willingness to reach out and collaborate, but they are also recognized by other Universities for their forward thinking work in skill based volunteerism. Not only are they appreciated by students who are receiving technical credit to teach, but they are exposing hundreds of children to the power of life long learning. Not to mention their specific name.

So one day — this is what I envision. Here come Ana, Marcus and Lori. They are from South Central LA and they are about to embark in their first year of University studies. And this is why they are there –

For Ana it was the one on one interaction with a college student mentor. She loved building the catapult, but most of all she loved the attention and the opportunity to see a young woman doing something in the sciences.

For Marcus, it was the topic of animal locomotion. He was fascinated by the flying squirrels and swimming sea turtles, and started reading every book he could get his hands on. He made a decision young that he was going to pursue this content – and it carried him through hard years of high school knowing he had a Big Goal at hand.

For Lori, it was working with her Dad. She had never seen him so engaged in an activity, and he had loved building that heart. More importantly, she heard the praise of the graduate student impressed by her dad’s ability to make such a great, working model of pressure. Knowing that he was good at something in the sciences made her want to pursue science, as well. But most of all it was seeing her hard working father finally recognized for the intelligence he had, even if his daily work didn’t afford him such creativity and opportunity to demonstrate it.

Ana, Marcus and Lori are the ultimate win-win-win.

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