STAR Initiative

Biogen Foundation Creates STAR, Cultivating a Coordinated 'Ecosystem' of Nonprofits to Promote STEM Education

  • Emphasizing STEM disciplines, STAR will follow students from middle school to college
  • Designed with students from historically underrepresented communities in mind
  • Commitment of $10 million over four years in two Massachusetts communities

In 2018 the Biogen Foundation launched a coordinated network of six local nonprofits to help students in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The goal is to stimulate students' excitement about STEM, with a specific focus on helping low-income students develop and sustain an interest in science, gain deeper exposure to STEM learning opportunities, and successfully transition into post-secondary education in pursuit of STEM careers. 

STAR, which stands for Science, Teacher support, Access and Readiness, exists within, and aims to support, the current educational landscapes in Cambridge and Somerville. The STAR nonprofits are aligning with, and complementing, school districts’ goals as part of a unified effort to build a STEM education ecosystem that will effectively serve all students. For example, one grantee, Enroot, will support immigrant communities and English language learners (ELL), while another, uAspire, will help students find and use resources to make college affordable. Citizen Schools will focus on hands-on science for middle school students, while The Young People’s Project will mentor students to be Math Literacy Workers, training their peers in after-school programs. Breakthrough Greater Boston will also use a “students-teaching-students” model to prepare high schoolers for college, while nearby Lesley University will offer teachers professional development programs in math and the sciences 

The Biogen Foundation has committed $10 million over the next four years to enable this coordinated network of organizations to mentor, train, teach and guide students in a hands-on way, from the time they are in middle school through their early college years. Though these groups operate independently, they will lead students on a fully supported educational journey managed by Root Cause in collaboration with the Biogen Foundation. 

The first year of STAR has been about learning and building relationships with our six nonprofit grantees and the two school districts as we know strong relationships across the organizations will be essential to catalyzing this STEM ecosystem. We are already seeing these relationships evolve and strengthen in different and meaningful ways, with new collaborations developing across the organizations that would not have happened otherwise – all of which we believe are positive indicators for the long-term success and impact of the STAR initiative.

STAR, along with our Community Lab programs – where young people have the opportunity to become biotech scientists working on real-world science problems in one of our on-site labs – underscores our commitment to act as a catalyst in STEM education, increase students’ success in science and ignite the next generation of scientists.