LAKELAND, Fla. — Many students returned to school this year suffering from a learning gap, what some called the “COVID slide.”
Students at Florida Polytechnic University set out to not only help high school students succeed but also spark new leaders in STEM careers.
“Having to do everything virtually is just a big change, but that’s what we’re here for,” said Florida Poly junior Lillian Frometa.
Frometa is taking her love for STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, right to high school students in Florida.
“Everything is supposed to be more personalized so that it’s not just another lecture that the student has to sit through,” said Frometa.
She’s one of more than a dozen Florida Poly students serving as learning assistants and virtual tutors in the university’s new STEM Nation initiative.
“We recognized that there may be some learning loss, the COVID slide as some folks called it,” said Dr. Ben Matthew Corpus, Florida Poly’s Vice Provost of Enrollment. “As the spring term ended with everyone pretty much remote, we recognized that they were going into fundamentally, the students, a summer of isolation potentially."
Teachers from nine schools across the state are participating in the initiative, including Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota high schools. Tutors are paired up to help students with calculus, but also act as a gateway for students to better understand STEM fields.
“Having a peer talk about mechanical engineering or nanotechnology and what that means and how calculus actually fits into that and makes it relevant within careers, we thought would be a really good thing,” said Corpus.
Florida Poly hopes to expand the program next semester.
Frometa says she’s working with about 35 students and hosting around seven sessions every week, all in an effort to bridge a gap caused by a global pandemic while providing new pathways to students for a future in STEM.
“We’re not another set of teachers,” said Frometa. “We’re here more as a mentor, a coach, a friend.”