NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - As part of a recent STEM initiative at New Providence High School, students Chris Kang and Kareena Kullar have founded a district-wide tutoring program to inspire students.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Eighteen months ago, as a new initiative, the New Providence School District made it a priority to expand STEM throughout New Providence schools. To head the initiative, Jon Keaney, a New Providence High School science teacher, was appointed as the Department Head of STEM. Over the recent months, New Providence has been able to successfully integrate STEM into the curriculum with new classes such as Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering, and with the expansion of the STEM Club, advised by math and science teachers including Denise Moser. Keaney made it a goal to not only build on the foundation of STEM in the high school, but also in the elementary and middle schools. He has worked to create a seamless K-12 STEM integration in the schools, and created connections with the community, forming ties with local technology and engineering companies like Linde Corporation and Bell Labs.

Early this past year, President of the NPHS STEM Club, Chris Kang, set up a meeting with Keaney in order to discuss possible ways to advance the club. Kang felt that although the club had a solid foundation built around various engineering challenges and competitions, there were other ways to take that foundation to the next level and stimulate a deeper and broader interest in STEM. He came up with several initiatives, one of which was the idea of a volunteer tutoring program to mentor students in the elementary schools.

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Kang recruited the aid of Kareena Kullar, Treasurer of the STEM Club to help make the idea possible. Together they met with the Salt Brook Elementary School principal, Jean Drexinger, in order discuss the possibility of starting a tutoring program at the school. Drexinger was excited with the idea stating that, “It’s really wonderful to see our High School friends working with the younger students in the district in the after school tutoring program. This mentor program benefits all students involved and helps to foster friendships at both levels.”

With Drexinger’s approval, Kang and Kullar were able to create fliers that were sent out to Salt Brook’s Friday folder, and to their delight received a large level of interest from parents. Kang and Kullar proceeded to ensure they would have an open library, permission slips from students, and other logistics necessary to kick off the STEM volunteer tutoring program.

To obtain volunteers, Kang recruited individuals from the STEM Club, while Kullar got students from the Future Civic Leaders Club to join the program. They compiled a list of tutors and volunteers on spreadsheets, and together planned out the structure of the program. Chris Kang replied on the matter that, “The level of enthusiasm from tutors and students alike was outstanding. My goal was to inspire young minds in STEM while also providing a valuable mentoring experience to high school students, and I think we have accomplished just that and more.”

The tutors meet on Mondays from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Salt Brook library. They teach students from grades 3 to 6 with an emphasis on math and science topics, but are flexible to help the students in other areas such as creative writing. The elementary students are grouped by grade and their interests, and then mentored one-on-one in order to nurture them to the best of their abilities. The program is already filled with over 50 tutors and elementary students and Kullar states that the first few sessions “ran really well. It’s great to have the chance to do this because when I was young, I never had this opportunity. They are the future, so it feels amazing to set a precedent for these younger students.”

Kang and Kullar hope to continue their work with the volunteer program, expanding to other schools in the district and nearby towns as well. STEM Department Head Jon Keaney thanked the students saying that, “I commend Chris and Kareena for all their work in putting this program together and for helping move the STEM initiative forward.”

Along with the tutoring initiative, Kang led Kullar and other STEM Club officers to create a series of intra-club competitions and workshops to expose students to real-life engineering challenges and encourage bonding. Kang also aims to establish a Guest Speaker Program where the club invites various STEM professionals to the high school to speak about their field, possible career paths, and inspire students.

Although the students of the STEM Club are already honored with state and regional awards in the Technology Student Association, NJ STEM League competitions, Verizon App Challenge, and NJ Thomas Edison Invention Challenge to name a few, the recent STEM initiatives serve to link students’ academic interest in STEM to application in the real world.

STEM Club Advisor, Denise Moser, continues to be grateful for the students and their initiatives stating that she is “pleased with the initiative and outstanding character of these students in the STEM Club, especially the president, Chris Kang, who set up the tutoring program, organized his peers, worked with the Salt Brook principal, Jean Drexinger, and created a successful volunteer outlet for our high school students to contribute to our school community.”

Editor's Note: Elsa Berisha is a junior at New Providence High School participating in the TAPinto New Providence internship program. To learn more about the internship program, contact bpeer@tapinto.net.