The LEAH Project and partners aim to increase diversity in STEM fields with launch of the STEM Exploration Internship

In summer 2022, the Leaders through Education, Action and Hope (LEAH) Project launched the STEM Exploration Internship, a new paid summer internship program for twelve Boston area high school students with backgrounds historically underrepresented in STEM fields, facilitated in partnership with MassBioEd and hosted by Lab Central. With a shared imperative for increasing representation in STEM fields, the three collaborating organizations are thrilled to meet the growing demand for paid STEM internship opportunities among Boston-based youth.

This initiative pilots a student-centered model where research activities are enhanced through daily on-site engagement with resident companies and entrepreneurs at LabCentral. Throughout the five-week program, students:

  • Develop lab skills through hands-on activities with guidance from teachers trained by MassBioEd,
  • Meet with scientists and entrepreneurs-in-residence in the state-of-the-art facilities at LabCentral,
  • Receive college- and career-readiness training from LEAH’s youth development experts

Students earn up to $2,000 for their participation in this 30-hour-per-week internship. Interested youth who complete the first summer are matched with an independent six-week paid summer lab internship at a corporate, academic, or medical lab. Participants also benefit from their inclusion in #FamiLEAH, a network of LEAH program alumni.

“This internship program was conceptualized to meet a growing need we saw among youth,” explained Lisa Aslan, outgoing Director of the LEAH Project. “We wanted to create an accessible opportunity that would appeal to [those] who might not gravitate toward the STEM fields. So many existing opportunities are marketed toward the top STEM students in the Boston area, and we wanted to fill the gap for those who might not ‘see themselves’ in STEM.”

“Historically, students of color have been excluded from STEM careers due to any number of structural and institutional barriers,” said Andre Bennett, LEAH’s new Director. “LEAH’s vision is to diversify the STEM field by making it more accessible to youth of color, low-income youth and first-generation college youth, this new program is one of the many ways LEAH continues to drive that vision.”

“MassBioEd is proud to lead a hands-on lab experience in partnership with the LEAH Project and Lab Central,” said Sunny Schwartz, CEO of MassBioEd. “We look forward to seeing the expansion of this initiative which will increase the diversity of students entering life science majors in college.”

“We’re focused on addressing systemic racial, gender and other underrepresentation in talent across the life sciences and the biotech industry,” said Gretchen Cook-Anderson, Executive Director of LabCentral Ignite. “Our hope is that these students will [be] inspired to add to the human vibrancy and full color of the life sciences by forging their own careers!”

“A cornerstone of ROME’s culture is to care deeply and be connected to our community,” said Daniel Rios, Principal Scientist in Immunology at ROME Therapeutics. “We are delighted to partner with the LabCentral, MassBioEd, and the LEAH Project to help inspire and support the next generation of biotech leaders, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented. We are committed to creating access and opportunity for students throughout their journeys, and we feel privileged to be part of this visionary program.”

“I have really enjoyed the community aspect so far, and I hope to gain more lab experience to further my skills and get a sense of what career is right for me.” – Genesis Gonzalez, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

“I signed up because I want to increase my knowledge in science to prepare myself for college. I knew [this program] was something I would benefit from.” – Jianna Correia Silva, John D. O’Bryant School.

About LabCentral: LabCentral is a Massachusetts non-profit company, founded in 2013 as a launchpad for high-potential life sciences and biotech start-ups. Operating over 225,000 sq. feet in Cambridge and on the Harvard University campus, LabCentral offers a network of fully permitted laboratory and office spaces for as many as 125 start-ups comprising approximately 1000 scientists and entrepreneurs.

About MassBioEd: The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) is a non-profit organization founded in 2001.Our mission is to build a sustainable life sciences workforce in the region through educational programs that engage teachers, inspire and propel students, and illuminate the pathway from the classroom to careers with a focus on expansion, opportunity, and diversity. MassBioEd has created programs to train educators in biotechnology, excite students about science, expose students to college and career opportunities within the life sciences and bring new career pathway opportunities to adults. We work to bring industry and education stakeholders together to help align training with current industry needs.

About the LEAH Project: The Leaders through Education, Action and Hope (LEAH) Project is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), college access, and career readiness program for Boston area youth who are historically excluded from STEM fields (low-income youth, youth of color, first generation college youth). The LEAH Project aims to diversify the STEM workforce by engaging youth of color in dynamic STEM, college readiness, and workforce development programming that empowers them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields. Participating youth have access to a variety of STEM-focused internship opportunities including LEAH’s hallmark STEM teaching internships, LEAH Knox Biomedical Research internships, and general STEM internships. The LEAH Project is a program of Health Resources in Action.

About HRiA: Health Resources in Action (HRiA) is a non-profit consulting organization serving government, non-profits, philanthropy, and communities across the U.S. Our mission is to help people live healthier lives and create healthy communities through prevention, health promotion, policy, and research. With our commitment to racial and health equity and community-centered approaches, HRiA has earned a national reputation as a public health leader.