READ STORY ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT LOWELL SUN
PUBLISHED: March 24, 2022
LOWELL — Project LEARN Inc. recently hosted a community-wide open house to celebrate the launch of their new Youth Innovation Space, an after-school college and career readiness programming center in the city’s downtown.
The renovation and launch of the space, which began in fall 2021, is the culmination of months of student, educator, and community input on how to expand youth learning opportunities and build a diverse talent pipeline for Lowell’s future.
“Project LEARN is elated to finally welcome students through the doors of our Youth Innovation Space,” said LZ Nunn, executive director of Project LEARN. “Now more than ever, as we emerge from this pandemic, our young people need a fun, hands-on, space for learning. This is a major milestone for our organization and for our students, which couldn’t have happened without the support of our community, amazing educators, and seed funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,”
Lowell elected officials like Mayor Sokhary Chau and state Rep. Vanna Howard were invited to the Y-Space to mark this new chapter for the organization
“I’m excited to transform Lowell into a great place for education– the kids in this city really are our future,” said Chau. “So many students have already been positively impacted and elevated by Project LEARN’s programs so that they can be competitive with students in nearby towns and cities.”
“The lasting impact of the Y-Space will play an important role in shaping the bright futures of Lowell youth. It’s critical for young people to be able to receive this support now, during high school, which will empower their decision making skills even after they’ve left these four walls,” said Howard.
Students were a true highlight of the event, like Lowell High junior Kylie Condon, who showcased her award-winning science fair project, a 3D printer that converts plastic water bottles into a moldable filament for designs, and the many dedicated JROTC cadets who assisted the Project LEARN staff in helping the event run smoothly.
Lowell High guidance counselor Heather Brunner was excited to see the space and believes that it will be an ideal place for students to network with business professionals, engage with the community and learn critical skills for now and in the future.
“It’s so exciting to have a physical space outside of Lowell High where students can meet after school and share ideas that will inspire them to get involved in the community,” said Lowell High English teacher Kendra Bauer.
Superintendent of Schools Joel Boyd, a Project LEARN Board Member, said the organization has been a critical partner in supporting Lowell Public Schools.
“This new space is a game-changer for after school enrichment and career readiness for our Lowell students,” said Boyd. “I know that we will see great results and positive outcomes for young people with this new programming center.”
Lowell High senior Samara Cardoso, who is also a youth leader, DIY volunteer and Project LEARN program participant and intern, greeted guests as they arrived.
“I’m excited to have a space downtown that’s walking distance from school where I am able to work on my resume, network and connect with mentors, and be around people who make me feel supported,” said Cardoso.
Later in the evening, state Sen. Ed Kennedy and state Rep. Tom Golden joined city officials to present Project LEARN with a $200,000 check from the state.
“The Y-Space is going to be an important resource for students in Lowell going forward and we are happy to be your partners in this,” Kennedy said on behalf of the delegation.
“We know that some of our students will go right off to college,” said Golden, a Lowell High Class of 1989 alum, “and we know that some of them need a little more assistance in figuring out their future plans. Project LEARN is their answer.”
Project LEARN’s Board Treasurer Jim Sullivan said it’s taken a lot of staff, board and volunteer dedication to get the organization to this moment. “I’m so proud to be part of this organization and the role it plays in the Lowell community for young people,” said Sullivan.
Somong Rattanayong, who spoke on behalf of state Rep. Rady Mom, D-Lowell, said Mom “is just amazed with the work that Project LEARN is doing on behalf of our students. They are leveling the playing field for Lowell youth. Thank you Project LEARN for giving them more opportunities for college, career and beyond!”
Master Sgt. Paul Perez, Lowell High’s JROTC instructor, who accompanied his cadets to the open house said, “We’re so proud that Lowell has a new place for students to get help with school assignments, career prep and college planning all in one spot here at the Y-Space.”
The Y-Space, which is within walking distance of Lowell High, UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and will provide unique learning opportunities to students that support their transition after high school, such as Google Coursera certifications, paid internships and life skills workshops on topics like financial aid, resume-building and mock interviews, just to name a few of the many programs offered.
“The Y-Space is designed to be a collaborative space and a catalyst for more community partnerships. If you have an idea that will help support our students, come to us, we want to make it happen,” said Nunn.