Elon Explorers program receives funding from Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Mark Enfield, associate professor of education, and Jen Hamel, associate professor of biology and Japheth E. Rawls Professor, receive funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for the Elon Explorers program. 

Several North Carolina out-of-school-time programs that provide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational opportunities to North Carolina students have received funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. For more than 25 years, the Fund has supported informal STEM programs in North Carolina through the Student STEM Enrichment Program (SSEP).

The Elon Explorers program was one of the SSEPs selected to receive funding. This program is a collaboration of Mark Enfield, associate professor of education, and Jen Hamel, associate professor of biology and Japheth E. Rawls Professor.

According to a press release from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the SSEP supports diverse programs with a common goal: to enable primary and secondary students to participate in creative, hands-on STEM activities for K-12 students and pursue inquiry-based exploration in BWF’s home state of North Carolina. These awards provide up to $60,000 per year for three years. Since the program’s inception in 1996, BWF has awarded 201 grants totaling $33.7 million to 103 organizations that reach more than 43,000 North Carolina students.

“This year’s cadre of SSEP awards are a collective of out-of-school-time STEM enrichment programming consisting of diverse non-profit organizations,” said Alfred Mays, director and chief strategist for diversity and education. “They are providing greater outreach opportunities with an essential sense of STEM equity, access, and opportunity for underserved and underrepresented communities.”

SSEP awards support career-oriented and practical programs intended to provide creative science enrichment activities for underserved and underrepresented students. After-school programs demonstrate value in helping to close opportunity gaps and providing students with greater access to high-quality programming.  These programs must enable students to participate in hands-on STEM activities and pursue inquiry-based avenues of exploration—an educational approach that BWF believes to be an effective way to increase students’ understanding and appreciation of the scientific process. To increase academic achievement, programs must provide a well-defined structure that aligns with the school-day curriculum, well-trained staff, and student follow-up.

“The hopeful impact of these awards is for the opportunity to further student engagement based on the STEM enrichment experience,” Mays said. “Outcomes from these investments are expected to result in a student’s increased participation in broader STEM opportunities, career exploration associated with their increased enthusiasm and excitement for STEM, and interest in pursuing more formal STEM opportunities such as college and careers.”

Other recipients of the 2021 Student STEM Enrichment Program include:

American Chemical Society, North Carolina Local Section
Anibal Lopes
Project SEED- Addition of Supplemental Fall and Spring Programs to research “A New Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease”

Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley
Hillary Rock Harrison
Eno River Association STEM Summer Camps and Year-Round Education

Duke University
David Johnston
Liftoff in ENC: A Community Collaboration to Connect Local STEM Research and Community

Inner Banks STEM Center
Alvin D Powell
Exploring Renewable Energy Sources Using Artificial Intelligence

Kinetic Minds Incorporated
Eskabonna Enrique Henderson
Junior Scientist Academy: Building S.T.E.M. Skills Into Careers

Meredith College
Julia Kolb
PERSIST: Pipeline Enhancement to Retain Students via Inclusive STEM Training

North Carolina A&T State University
Marcia Ford Williams
NC A&T Global STEM Scholars Institute

Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education
Deborah Hicks-Rogoff
PAGE: Creating Innovative STEM Education for Girls in Appalachia

Project Scientist
Rebecca Sims
Hands-On STEM Club for Girls

Student U
Elena Marie Maina
Explore Fearlessly Initiative

Wake Forest University
Rebecca Alexander
Wake Forest LEAP – Lab Experiences; Academics and Professions

West Wilkes High School
Jennifer Rae LeBlanc
Securing the Future – A cryptology/cybersecurity experience for rural high school students

Wilson College of Textiles – North Carolina State University
Delisha Hinton
TEXplore – Summer Enrichment and Saturday Academy Program