The charity, which promotes STEM career paths, has addressed any barriers to access its new remote programmes.
Teen-Turn, the charity that encourages young girls from under-represented backgrounds to think about STEM careers, has pivoted hard to ensure it continues to reach its community and keep them engaged as Covid-19 restrictions continue.
In the past four years, Teen-Turn has helped more than 600 girls to get involved in conversations around career paths in STEM. Its CEO and founder, Joanne Dolan, said the team was determined to continue to help girls across Ireland interact with mentors and role models throughout this challenging time.
“The Covid-19 closings required Teen-Turn to pivot our hands-on STEM learning to a wide range of online activities,” said Dolan.
“We were conscious that our cohort does not universally have access to equipment and/or the internet in the same way as many of their peers, so we had to be tactical in our approach. In order to make our after-school [programme] available to as many beneficiaries as possible, we undertook a comprehensive plan.”
The charity subscribed to two online video-conferencing channels, then contacted schools and, in turn, parents and guardians for permission to allow under 18s to be contacted by email and attend video conferences. It also confirmed GDPR permissions from parents, guardians and participants via a form on its website.
Teen-Turn has to date scheduled more than 40 sessions of online activity mentoring and exam grinds, mobilising two Garda-vetted mentors so that one could be present online at each session.
An equipment loan scheme was set up, as a considerable number of the charity’s community do not own or have access to computers or tablets. Mobile phone data credit was provided to facilitate those participants who can only access the internet through their phone, and ‘how to’ webinars were organised to explain how to hotspot a laptop to a phone. The charity also loaded materials onto USB keys for those in rural areas for whom internet access is unreliable.
“The costs involved were significant, from the purchasing of software subscriptions, mobile phone credit, refurbished laptops and tablets and USBs, to printing, postage and couriers,” said Dolan. “We are extremely grateful to The Community Foundation for Ireland for their contribution in covering these expenses.”
Providing Leaving Cert grinds and STEM-related learning sessions, Teen-Turn is always happy to chat to volunteers who want to help the next generation of young women into STEM. If you have the skills and the willingness, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Ann O’Dea is on the advisory board of Teen-Turn.