Together with long-time partner nonprofit STEM Santa Fe, the Laboratory organized a virtual Julia Robinson Math Festival (JRMF) staffed by 22 Laboratory volunteers who helped the students try a selection of engaging puzzles and challenges.
The push for the Festival came from Astrid Morreale, a Lab volunteer who had been mentoring a 7th-grader at the school, and saw that the students would benefit from a chance to reconnect with math following the challenges of the pandemic.
With the support of Carlos Vigil's teachers and administrators, and Simon Miera, the school district's Gear Up coordinator, the festival came together. (Gear Up is a federally-funded state initiative to increase the number of low-income students that obtain a secondary school diploma and prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education.)
The first JRMF in Española took place in person in 2019, but the planned event in 2020 had to be canceled, so it was rewarding for co-organizer Janelle Vigil-Maestas from the Lab's Community Partnerships Office to see the 2021 version take place, albeit under different circumstances.
"I'm most excited that the school was on board with the idea, and encouraged all the students in 8th grade to take part," says Janelle. "I'm also thrilled that Lina from STEM Santa Fe shared my desire to make this happen before students were out for summer break.”
STEM Santa Fe moved all their programming online for the last year, and Executive Director Germann is planning for a return to in-person activities starting in June.
"We hope that with this virtual math festival, we close the door on a challenging period in our lives that only made us stronger and more determined," she says. "We are thankful that we have been able to keep students' minds engaged while sheltering at home during summer 2020, on weekends, during spring break, and even helped some teachers during school time."