The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School (OLMCS), located in Asbury Park, NJ, has been selected as a featured program for the 21st Century Community Leaning Center (21CCLC) Virtual Showcase by the United States Department of Education. There are fifty-two 21CCLC programs funded through the New Jersey Department of Education. Out of 8,900 21st Century Community Leaning Centers across the nation, OLMCS is one of just three selected for the Virtual Showcase, a remarkable achievement for this 18-month young program.

Located in one of the State’s worst-ranking public school districts, the success of the OLMCS STEM program is especially noteworthy. “We measure success by our students’ engaged participation, by the impact that the relationships and experiences are having on the lives of our students in their day school performance, and in their lives outside of school,” says Sister Jude Catherine Boyce, S.S.J., Principal at OLMCS. “We believe that quality afterschool programming early on sows the seeds for positive change and future success for our children and our Asbury Park community.”

A video highlighting OLMCS’ STEM program will be posted in mid-June on the You for Youth website (

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, established by Congress,  awards grants to inner-city and rural public schools to support the creation of community learning centers providing academic enrichment during non-school hours, particularly for students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School is a nonpublic school with a 90-year history of serving low-income, primarily Haitian, Latino and African-American families in the Asbury Park area. Almost one hundred percent of student families qualify as low-income.

The STEM afterschool program is fully integrated into OLMCS’ day school program. It helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects; offers a broad array of enrichment activities complementing day school academic programs; and offers literacy and other services to student families.

Active participation in STEM education during early adolescence is a strong predictor of college degree attainment. – Sister Jude

“We believe that every day is a learning opportunity. Our extraordinary teachers and staff, each of whom is a leader in his/her own right, lead activities that seed the school with innovation.”

Known as the OLMC All Stars, the afterschool program serves 110 students in Grades 4-8, five days a week, for three hours daily and provides programming for their adult family members. The STEM component of OLMCS’s afterschool program began in September 2012, when the 21CCLC five-year funding began.

Friendship Train Foundation Partnership

The STEM seed was planted at OLMCS in 2011. A start-up enrichment program for 30 students was created by OLMCS and funded by the Friendship Train Foundation (FTF), a nonprofit organization working with motivated groups and individuals to support programs and services for communities that need help.

Since 2009, FTF had provided OLMCS families in need with translation services, educational opportunities, tuition assistance, housing, transportation, and medical assistance.

In 2011, FTF helped OLMCS seed and incubate an afterschool program.  FTF was the program’s sole funder during its first year.  Based on the success of this pilot, FTF assisted OLMCS in applying for the 21st CCLC grant and signed on as a partner.

OLMC received the 21st CCLC grant in August 2012. No longer operating the program, FTF continues to supply financial contributions, professional services, facilitates connections with resources, serves on the Programming Committee and acts as an ambassador.

STEM Activities Build Core Learning Skills, Team Work and Self Esteem

“Our STEM program is based on NJ’s core curriculum standards, school day classroom objectives, and the goals and objectives of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program,” says Sowmiya Thirumoorthy, Project Director. “Improving student performance and increasing parental involvement is the purpose of our enrichment programs.” Assessments show that STEM students gain confidence in their own abilities to learn and widen their choice of careers.

The STEM program’s goals reinforce core curriculum standards and incorporate skills reinforcement in a more indirect way. “For example,” says Ms. Thirumoorthy, “our Rocketry enrichment class integrates science and engineering concepts along with art and writing components. The culminating projects show that students are confident in designing, conducting, and reporting basic experimental investigations. This has helped students develop real connections between theory and hands-on applications in science, math, and technology. At the same time these activities promote team work and self-esteem.”

Other hands-on enrichment activities include Hands On Science, Robotics, Math Games, Astronomy, Build Your Virtual World, Science of Cooking, and Garage Band.

Community Learning Collaborations

“When it comes to community-based projects and STEM programming,” says Connie Nathanson, Program Coordinator, “our experience with a local organization called Second Life Bikes has been a true marker of success.”

Once a week “Bike Squad” students are taken to Second Life Bikes, a bike repair shop a few blocks from the school. Here students learn about bike repair – the tools and the techniques – but also about problem-solving skills and the teamwork required to put a broken bicycle back on the street.

Once a child has worked 15 hours in the shop, he or she earns a used bike to take home.

Other collaborators include the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, Liberty Science Center, Red Hot Community Publishing, and Molly Johnson, a local community artist and printmaker.

Measuring Success of the STEM Afterschool Program

“We are thrilled that our STEM program has been recognized by the Department of Education,” says Sr. Jude. “It is an honor our teachers and staff share, and a tribute to the faith and partnership extended to us by The Friendship Train Foundation.

Media Alert: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School welcomes media to tour our program, learn more about us, and help create awareness of our program and opportunities for partnership. Contact Christine Burke 732-688-8079.
Media contact:
Christine Burke

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

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