Each year, it takes an army of STEM advocates to keep the wheels in motion for STEM programming in Iowa. From serving on Regional STEM Advisory Boards, working groups and committees to reviewing program applications and helping with events, hundreds, if not more than a thousand, volunteers willingly devote their time and resources to providing access to STEM programs, materials and events for educators and students across Iowa.
Throughout the six STEM regions and on a statewide level, volunteers are the glue of the STEM infrastructure, often serving year after year.
“In the end and at the heart of it all for me, it will always come to my why behind the why: What is best for kids? By focusing my volunteerism on one singular question, it helps me maintain focus to stay inspired in how I bequeath myself and my resources to any group or cause. This allows me to connect to youth in a myriad of ways through sitting on a regional STEM Board and getting to see first-hand the excitement as a classroom explores a hands-on activity, watching a robotics team learn about failing forward as their trial run with their robot doesn’t quite work and yet they stay undeterred, or seeing the smiling faces of kids having fun in learning as they encounter challenging content with an appetite for more,” said Camille Sloan Schroeder, Iowa State University College of Engineering Community Outreach Programs Manager and North Central Regional STEM Advisory Board Member.
While this year looked different in the face of a global pandemic, the need for STEM volunteers did not change. Some of the needs shifting to reconfiguring virtual STEM festivals, adapting trainings to virtual formats and providing supports from a distance rather than face-to-face.
“Colleagues in other states often ask how we get so much done in Iowa with a lean staff, to which I proudly proclaim ‘Volunteers’”, said Jeff Weld, the Council’s executive director. “The review of program proposals, BEST applications, teaching award nominations, Seal of Approval candidates; the staffing of exhibit booths at the Fair, the Capitol, at conferences; and steering of our goals, mission and functions as working groups and committees, and so much more are functions we rely upon through volunteerism of our Council and Regional Board members as well as allies and collaborators across Iowa.”
If you are interested in getting involved in Iowa’s STEM Council, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.