December 21, 2021

Gains in the Education and Mathematics and Science, also known as GEMS, looks to spark interest in STEM for 5th through 12th grade students. The GEMS Program is supported by Near-Peer Mentors and Resource Teachers who guide students through hands-on STEM activities, while growing themselves as mentors and educators along the way. 

Malik Bolaji, a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, served as a Near-Peer Mentor for the GEMS program after participating in the program years prior. Near-Peer Mentors are local high school and college students with STEM interest or experience that help lead our GEMS programs. As a GEMS alum, Malik was excited to give back to the program that helped spark his interest in STEM. As a Near-Peer Mentor for the last three years, Malik taught the forensics lab module and enjoyed watching the students take on the role of a detective or forensic scientist. He even led students through a blood spatter experiment. 

Malik Bolaji

“We’re able to teach physics, math, biology, and chemistry concepts and relate them to real-life examples of what forensic scientists might do,” said Malik. “Our forensics module combines fun hands-on experiments with important science concepts. Together, they’re a great combo to excite the youth about STEM.”

Beyoncé Carrlington, a senior at Stevenson University, had a similar path to becoming a Near-Peer Mentor. Beyoncé participated in the GEMS program as a sixth grader and was eager to continue her program experience as a Near-Peer Mentor. Though she served as a mentor for students, Beyoncé said that the GEMS Resource Teachers were also great mentors for her as she continued her path towards a STEM career. Currently, Beyoncé is a biology student actively applying for her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology.

Beyoncé Carrlington

“As a Near-Peer Mentor, not only do you learn how to mentor young students, but the researchers that come in to work with and educate us alongside our Resource Teachers become mentors for us,” said Beyoncé. “I am a firm advocate for the value of mentorship. When you start talking to and networking with people, you may never know where you will end up.”

Emily Thomson has been involved with the GEMS since 2011 and has been the Resource Teacher for GEMS I at the Aberdeen Proving Ground location since 2014. Emily loves the opportunity GEMS gives her to evolve as an educator and STEM professional. 

Emily Thomson

“Being the Resource Teacher for GEMS has pushed me to constantly up my game when it comes to STEM education. I have had to educate myself in areas like computer science to teach coding. I’ve also had to explore and learn about emerging technologies such as nanotech and how it is being applied to several fields like cancer research,” said Emily. “Staying current and pushing myself allows me to create experiences for the students that are applicable to the real world while also increasing student engagement and interest.”

Naomi Belgrave, an 11th grader, participated in the medical module of her local GEMS program in Alabama. She had the opportunity to conduct hands-on dissection activities and even learned various ways to draw blood. Naomi  wants to continue her STEM education in college and hopes to study veterinary medicine. 

Naomi Belgrave

“GEMS has encouraged me to push myself to dive deeper into the world of STEM,” said Naomi. “I am currently enrolled in my local community college. My classes are funded by a STEM scholarship which will help kickstart my journey into becoming a veterinarian and challenge me to expand my STEM knowledge.”

AEOP is proud to offer the GEMS program at no cost to students. Participants receive an educational stipend to offset transportation and food costs for families. To learn more about the program or find a GEMS location near you, visit the GEMS page on the AEOP website. 

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    The eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant is intended to support teachers/program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION with their teams. Educators (formal and informal) of students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to apply. Special consideration is given to Title 1 schools and to those with underserved/ under-represented populations.