Customer Highlight: Envisioneers

Customer Highlight: Envisioneers

Q&A with Maria Drake, CEO of Envisioneers

Maria Drake is the Founding CEO of Envisioneers, a nonprofit located in Northern California dedicated to reducing the opportunity gap in education.

Envisioneers is a spinoff from Citizen Schools, a national organization that has provided expanded learning opportunities to underserved and underrepresented middle school students across the country since 1995.

By working with industry to introduce career pathway conversations and combining social, emotional learning with 21st century skill building, CS takes a comprehensive approach to help close the opportunity gap for students.

Too often, students lack opportunity due to their race, ethnicity and gender groups. And these gaps have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. By focusing on these underserved groups and providing access to technology, career and college opportunities, as well as career role models, Envisioneers is working to close the opportunity and achievement gap through project-based learning in middle schools.

Envisioneers and NeuroMaker: An aligned partnership with shared core values

How does NeuroMaker support the Envisioneers missions?

“Envisioneers was searching for opportunities that did not require a curriculum rebuild, and was relevant, easy to implement, and added to their four pillars: academics, college/career connections, social-emotional learning, and 21st-Century Skills,” says Maria Drake. “NeuroMaker was all packaged and ready to go with was super exciting for us.” She adds, “Many after school programs solely focus on academics, and while Envisioneers also focuses on academics, it is important that the program is also relevant, timely, and engaging as well. If you’ve ever worked with middle school students, they only get excited if something relates to them; if they can see the relationship to it. School is not relatable in middle school to many children.”

What got you interested in NeuroMaker?

“I wanted to bring something that would get their minds going. NeuroMaker seemed like a great fit because it incorporates into our programming, is challenging, and an easy lift. We want to provide a program that addresses the opportunity gap and something that won’t take the burden of all of our staff time and energy to have to create.”

“If you’ve ever worked with middle school students, they only get excited if something relates to them;
if they can see the relationship to it, school is not relatable in middle school to many children.”

How important is it to include real-world connections in your program?

“Volunteers coming in from the community from all professions is what our kids need to see and feel. We have mentors who are engineers from large companies here in the Bay Area and they teach their passion and their passion is something to do with engineering since we’re in Silicon Valley, but not always. When we got the first NeuroMaker kit, I gave it to one of my board members who is a staunch volunteer and an aeronautical engineer to test out. Buy-in from [our board member] solidified the decision to move forward with NeuroMaker.”