Back in August, Mark Rutherford sixth-former, Holly Perry collected her A-level results. A few weeks later she was back at the school in Putnoe, but this time as an employee.
The 19-year-old returned to her alma mater as the new STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) assistant and events co-ordinator, following taking part in the STEM Scholars Programme run by Villiers Park.
Holly was in the first cohort of 2020 STEM Scholars two years ago. The programme is run by Villiers Park and supported by Arm and The Smallpeice Trust.
Throughout the two year course, participants have the chance to run an enrichment project in their school, as well as join a subject-specific residential course at the Villiers Park centre near Cambridge.
While on the programme, Holly and three other STEM scholars ran Smarties, a STEM based club for Year 7 and 8 students at Mark Rutherford School, as well as running activity-based events at local primary schools.
This was their INVOLVE enrichment project, something that had to not only benefit the students running it, but also others in the school community.
The hope of Mark Rutherford’s Smarties club was to spark an interest in STEM subjects at an early age.
It also offered educational benefits giving students the chance to learn something new and complete scientific experiments that they may not necessarily have had the opportunity to do during a normal school day.
“Evidence states that there is a shortage of engineers and scientists for the next generation,” Holly explains.
“My aim was, and continues to be, trying to narrow that gap by inspiring young people to pursue STEM subjects from an early age, growing the next generation of competent employees.
“It was a truly rewarding experience as every week I saw them develop communication and teamwork skills. They came out of the process with an INVOLVE Award from Villiers Park and a Crest Award from the British Science Association.”
As a result of the programme, Holly’s school began to stand out in the local area as a hub of STEM activity. Mark Rutherford STEM students now regularly take place in outreach projects, including the BedPop Fun Palaces and, during British Science Week, BedPop Science Lab events.
STEM coordinator Tracy Jakins – Holly’s teacher, now colleague – found that as they got noticed in the local area, demand for STEM became huge.
As well as owning a pop-up Planetarium, Mark Rutherford School is now in the process of building a state-of-the-art STEM Centre which will allow them to pursue further exciting projects.
At the start of the new term Holly was taken on as a dedicated and enthusiastic STEM Assistant/Events Co-Ordinator, working alongside Tracy, the Planetarium Coordinator and the Business Partnership.
Employed by the school where she studied for five year, Holly hopes to use her experience to motivate others to follow in her footsteps.
She’s now working towards a Level 3 Apprenticeship Qualification in Events Management.
“On the 2020 STEM programme I developed so much in confidence, from public speaking and leadership to doing presentations.
“It was a great experience and it made me realise that I wanted to pursue a career within the STEM field. I want to continue to help others gain an insight into the opportunities that could be available to them in future.”