Megan Andres, a transplant from the West Coast, says Cambridge is home now, after 12 years. “It’s a special place. I’m happy to be involved in the community,” she says. Andres coordinates two of Cambridge School Volunteers’ Learning Centers, at Rindge Avenue Upper School and Putnam Avenue Upper School. Her job at the remote CSV Learning Centers includes training and supervising groups of tutors who meet one-to-one with students at least once a week.
The 2020-21 school year is Andres’ third with CSV. She brought to CSV experience as a first grade classroom teacher for kids with speech and language delays and administrative experience as well. “The thing I really enjoy about working with CSV is the variety of people I get to work with— students, staff at the schools, volunteers, and CSV staff. There’s always someone you get to see and say hello to, ” says Andres. The volunteers themselves are from a wide range of professional and other backgrounds. In the NetPals STEM mentoring program (which has been reformulated for pandemic conditions), she notes, “We have people who work in small companies, large companies, and in universities.”
This year Andres is working within a novel program meant to provide STEM engagement and career exploration in a physically distant format. What remains the same is the heavy involvement of longtime NetPals partner companies, who in a normal year would recruit and supply one-to-one mentors for entire seventh-grade cohorts in the Cambridge Public Schools. Since all volunteering is virtual and remote this year, CSV invited its partners to use videoconferencing to inspire students in an after-school club setting. The NetPals STEM Exploration Clubs at three upper schools meet for one hour, with volunteers from BioNtech, Oracle, and other STEM companies, and university departments, including the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering. The clubs began their menu of interactive presentations and small group discussions at the end of March.
Andres helps the seventh-grade science teacher coordinate the club at PAUS. Any student at the school, no matter their grade, can participate. What she finds exciting is that the new club model “is really utilizing the volunteers in a way we haven’t used them before. They’re getting a chance to develop programming.” The diversity of offerings is significant, too. “There’s one project where the volunteers will be using origami to talk about chemical building blocks.”
Particularly unusual, as well as rewarding, this year is Andres’ taking on a tutoring role with one student. “It’s given me perspective on what the volunteers are doing. I do a lot of coordinating and finding information but the one-to-one interaction with my student has been eye-opening for me. I enjoy working with her.” She says having her own children reach middle-school age and beyond also helps her in her role. She says of kids that age, “They keep you honest—and humble.”
In Andres’ off-duty time, she walks and runs outdoors, often with her family’s newest addition—a young dog with “a lot of energy.” But it’s clear the pup has met its match where energy is concerned.