New afterschool program puts students on a path to STEM

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Kofi Biney

About 15 million children go unsupervised after the school day ends, according to the nonprofit advocacy organization Afterschool Alliance. But in Philadelphia, many students will now have a new afterschool program to keep them busy.

The free program is called Full STEAM Ahead, and it’s made available to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at five schools in the city. Funded by a three-year, $442,000 grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Center, the program serves about 350 students attending New Media Technology Charter School, Wissahickon Charter School, St. Raymond of Penafort School, Morris E. Leeds Middle School, and Rhodes Middle School.

Full STEAM was designed to help students with homework, study skills, skill-building clinics, and STEAM workshops, which integrate science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Center for Arts & Technology (PCAT) announced the launch of the program at its facility, where 75 students from New Media demonstrated one of its workshops.

“We’re working on a project with all different kinds of solids and put water on them to see if they melt or not,” said Karlain Hayes, a New Media student.

Kristyn Stewart, PCAT’s director, said the program is important not only because it introduces students to the STEM field, but also because it encourages them to consider STEM careers.

“We’re doing this to promote them being well-rounded, to see the connection between science and the arts, and to reinforce that science can be interesting,” Stewart said. “We have a large number of students who may be going to college, but very few are going into STEM fields and we need more students, specifically minority students, going into the STEM fields.”

Programs like Full STEAM Ahead will be celebrated as part of the 13th annual Lights On Afterschool Rally, one of more than 7,500 events taking place nationwide to emphasize the importance of starting and maintaining afterschool programs.

The rally will be held at 4:30 p.m. today on the Thomas Paine Plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building marking the start of a 15-day period in which various Out-of-School Time (OST) events will occur throughout the city. These events include:

  • Oct. 24 – The premier showing of Brooklyn Castle, during the Philadelphia Film Society Fall Festival, at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St.
  • Oct. 27 – The Afterschool Matters Initiative Practitioner Fellowship Fall Roundtable at the United Way Building.
  • Nov. 1 – The annual Regional OST Summit and Resource Fair at the City Line Avenue Hilton.

For more information about the Lights On Afterschool initiative, visit