supporting Cambridge public school students

NetPals honored at statewide conference

Left to right: Helene Horan Winn, MSA Board Member/Senior Community Relations Specialist, The TJX Companies; Jennifer Fries, Executive Director of Cambridge School Volunteers; and Emily Haber, CEO, MSA, at the awards ceremony, June 12, 2017, Framingham. Photo credit: Melissa Ostrow

On Monday June 12, 2017, the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) presented CSV with its 2017 Massachusetts Service and Volunteerism Awardee for “Working Together/Outstanding Collaboration in Service & Volunteerism” at its bi-annual conference in Framingham. NetPals, a program of Cambridge School Volunteers (CSV), was recognized for outstanding collaboration in youth mentoring. The NetPals mentoring program introduces seventh grade students to careers in science, technology, and engineering. NetPals is a three-way collaboration between 15 companies and research institutions, the Cambridge Public Schools, and the non-profit Cambridge School Volunteers. NetPals is part of a multi-sector effort to build pathways to science and engineering careers for Cambridge public school students.

The Massachusetts Service Alliance

The Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), established in 1991, is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as the state commission on service and volunteerism. MSA promotes and supports service and volunteerism by investing public and private resources in community-based organizations that rely upon volunteers and people engaged in service to meet their community’s needs.

Cambridge School Volunteers

CSV, a 51-year-old nonprofit organization, is a partner of the Cambridge Public Schools. The school district and CSV have collaborated closely to match hundreds of seventh-graders with an individual NetPals mentor working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) every year. CSV plans an expansion of the program to reach every Cambridge Public School seventh-grader with a STEM mentor, or “NetPal.”

CSV’s NetPals program engages 15 corporations and research institutions in mentoring students within the Cambridge Public Schools. CSV harnesses the energy and volunteerism of five hundred corporate volunteers annually through these partnerships. CSV’s Lisa Van Vleck was at the helm of the organization’s corporate volunteer programs for 30 years, including collaboratively designing the NetPals curriculum and mentoring model. Van Vleck, who retired this June, was not present to accept the award due to health issues, but Jennifer Fries, executive director of CSV, accepted in her stead.

NetPals’ one-to-one model is a hybrid of online and in-person mentoring. Student and mentors exchange six to eight letters by email and meet three times at school or at a work site. CSV currently operates the program at Cambridge Street Upper School, Putnam Avenue Upper School, and Rindge Avenue Upper School with the following partners: Audible, the Broad Institute, Cambridge Systematics, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, GCP Applied Technologies, IBM, the Koch Institute, the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering, Neon Therapeutics, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Oracle, Vecna Technologies, the Volpe Center, and the Whitehead Institute.