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University pivotal in bringing astronaut’s STEM program to local school

The first African-American astronaut to walk in space and the mayor of the City of Boston may not sound as though they have a lot in common. But last week, before 600 students, they formed a solid front to encourage students to dream big and apply themselves in science and math.

Students at the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain met Bernard Harris, the astronaut, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, when they came together for Harris’ Dream Tour, which included a demonstration on space flight and dialogue about achieving goals.

Harris and Menino talked about what it takes to be an astronaut and how important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education has been to their careers.

The Curley School is one of Northeastern’s partner schools for the Step Up initiative, established by Menino in 2006. The collaboration between five area universities (Northeastern University, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University and Harvard University) and 10 Boston public schools aims to reduce the achievement gap by supporting schools with expertise and resources.

Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education and the College of Engineering, which hosted 48 Boston-area middle school students this past summer as part of the Bernard Harris Summer Science Program, were pivotal in bringing the Dream Tour to the Curley K-8 School, one of only 10 schools in the country this year to take part in the program.

“More than 600 students from one of Northeastern’s Step Up partner schools had the opportunity to spend the day with an astronaut,” said Claire Duggan, associate director of Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education. “It is not often that a grant given to support programs in math and science provides the opportunity to be part of something magical, and I hope that programs like these inspire students to dream big.”

The Dream Tour, presented by ExxonMobil and the Harris Foundation, is designed to help students reach their potential through strong math and science programs and to provide improved classroom tools for teachers.

“America’s students have incredible opportunities in careers that haven’t even been created yet,” said Harris. “The Dream Tour is one way to open their eyes to the limitless possibilities they have in their hands as long as math and science education is part of the equation.”

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