One of the Foundation’s community partners, Ecotek Science Lab, which has over 15-years experience working with under-resourced communities, helped to educate the Foundation about the lack of persistent and effective STEM outreach and education in certain geographical areas.
With Ecotek’s collaboration, the Foundation is presently engaged in year-round comprehensive plastics education in two under-resourced communities that serve diverse populations: Detroit, Michigan, and Lake Wales, Florida. Filling the plastics workforce pipeline is a challenge but, at the same time, equitable opportunities for students of color in under-resourced communities to investigate and have meaningful interactions with the plastics industry have not, up to this point, been widely created.
To address these challenges, the Foundation has expanded its educational programs to adopt and embrace cultural differences. For example, the Foundation has hired black educators from the community to deliver PlastiVan to these communities because they are seen by students as credible and reliable messengers.
“One thing we noted was that when we were in school districts with demographics that were not predominately white and middle class, our PlastiVan educators did not seem like credible messengers in under-resourced communities,” said Vitale. “Hiring black educators has increased the relatability factor that students in these districts have embraced. The response from students, families, teachers and administrators in Detroit and Lake Wales has been overwhelmingly positive.”