The STEM Through Authentic Research and Training (START) Program is a new program integrating academic, social, and professional experiences, in the theme of exomedicine, to build a pipeline into college for first generation and traditionally underrepresented students by providing year-round authentic opportunities and professional development for high school students and teachers. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the START Program has worked with the local Fayette County public school and community partners to provide content to over 300 students through: virtual laboratory tours with community partner Space Tango, "meet a scientist" discussions, and online near-peer student demonstrations aimed at making the practice of STEM disciplines approachable. Furthermore, the START Program has partnered with Higher Orbits to provide at-home, space-themed learning kits for students to develop teamwork, communication, and STEM principles while engaging in online content with teachers, professionals, and astronauts. Finally, the START Program has moved its training platforms online, including receiving College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) Peer Educator accreditation for our near-peer mentoring and coaching training. As a result, the START Program is better positioned to address this critical need in STEM education, while reaching more students in the community than possible with face-to-face interactions alone.

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Published in Journal of STEM Outreach, v. 4, issue 4.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY-4.0).

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Funding Information

This project is made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), Grant Number R25 GM132961, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Additional support was received from the Chellgren Endowment at the University of Kentucky (LHB).