Educators, businesses discuss expanding partnerships

WESTFIELD — The Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA) had an enthusiastic Zoom kick-off meeting this week, with 40 educators and members of the business community talking about ways they can work together on projects that help students and highlight business opportunities, including Adopt a Classroom, STEM Week in October and Westfield Technical Academy cooperative education placements.

Adopt a Classroom coordinator Mary Keane said despite the program going virtual last year, the students loved having visitors from the “real world” and learning about their real-life experiences. The goal is to get businesses involved in classroom instruction and to make real-world connections, she said, adding there have been many successful projects since the program started, including virtual tours last year that allowed many more students to participate than could have in person.

Keane said the commitment on the part of businesses is a planning meeting, the classroom collaboration, which can be one or several class periods, and a reflection meeting. Topics are not limited strictly to the presenter’s business, but can be on more general topics such as problem solving, interviews and essential skills.

Since Adopt a Classroom started in 2018, there have been about 30 projects completed.

“We have a lot of repeat customers,” Keane said. She said anyone interested in learning more may contact her at [email protected].

Jennifer Hanselman, dean of the colleges of mathematics and sciences at Westfield State University, said this year’s STEM week from Oct. 18 to 22 is the fourth statewide to focus on science, engineering, technology and math in the schools, and the third in which WSU is taking a lead.

“I’ve been really pleased with the preparation across the state so far,” Hanselman said, including the many virtual opportunities. Westfield State will also continue its partnership with Franklin Avenue Elementary School, where it welcomes third and fourth graders to the university for engineering design activities.

WTA’s Aviation Technology program will join a statewide panel on aviation as part of the week’s activities.

“See Yourself in STEM” is the theme for the students, and scientists and engineers from all different backgrounds and paths also will be invited to participate and tell their STEM story, Hanselman said.

Westfield district math supervisor Kate Perez thanked Hanselman for her leadership on STEM week. Perez said other activities planned include having eighth grade robotics students from Westfield Middle School go to Westfield Gas & Electric for a tour of the facility and a career panel. She said there will also be virtual career panels at WTA and Westfield High School. Perez said she may be reached at [email protected].

WTA Assistant Principal Kevin Daley said he is taking over cooperative education placements of juniors and seniors in area businesses this year. Daley said 26 students are already out working, with another seven co-ops in process.

“If you’ve thought about it and have any opportunities with your company, co-ops are a great opportunity for kids to get real-life experience,” Daley said, adding, “We’re hoping to keep increasing that, and get as many kids out as possible to increase the workforce, and possibly roll into a full-time job.” Daley may be reached at [email protected] or 413-572-6533.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski also introduced Mishie Serrano, the new job placement coordinator at the Reed Career Center in WHS, and Matthew Garlo, the new outreach coordinator for the district, who will also be taking over the volunteer mentoring program in the schools.

Czaporowski thanked everyone for participating, and said the next WE2BA meeting will be Oct. 26.

“We will endeavor to have that in person,” he said.

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