On June 27-28, during the summer heat, more than 250 employees from biopharmaceutical company AbbVie worked to improve the Glenn L. Martin Elementary School campus in Santa Ana with a large-scale STEM lab for the school population of nearly 510 students. The project was made possible through a partnership between AbbVie and the Heart of America Foundation, an organization working to provide quality resources and transform spaces in underfunded schools.
“We know that not every school is the same across the country,” said Jill Hardy Heath, President and CEO of Heart of America. “Our job is to work with great partners like AbbVie to make a difference.”
This week is AbbVie’s annual Week of Possibilities, an initiative that encourages AbbVie employees across the country to volunteer in local communities.
“As part of AbbVie Opportunity Week, we are working with our local communities to identify the greatest needs and how we can help. Coming together to build an immersive STEM lab and renovate other spaces within the school is meaningful to our team and hopefully to the students who will study here,” said Carrie Strom, senior vice president at AbbVie. “STEM education is important to inspire and nurture our next generation of scientists and technical leaders. We are very excited to support the students and teachers at Glenn L. Martin School.”
During the two-day project, volunteers deep-cleaned, painted, and decorated two rooms to create an upgraded library space along with the STEM lab. They also assembled technology and prepared STEM-based educational resource kits that included books and materials for students to take home.
“AbbVie volunteers have packed over 400 educational kits containing age-appropriate books, STEM activities, art supplies and school supplies to take students home so they can continue learning,” said Heath.
An additional team of volunteers worked around the rest of the school campus, building planter boxes, painting STEM and science murals, and cleaning and organizing storerooms and classrooms.
The work at Martin Elementary School, which serves TK through fifth grade, ended with the inauguration of the new STEM lab in the presence of AbbVie volunteers, teachers and a group of students.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Heath asked the students.
One replied “Nurse” while another said “YouTuber”.
No matter what profession the students aspire to, they can benefit from the MINT Makerspace, which offers an open space for collecting and creating. In addition to Legos and art supplies, the room also offers a green screen as a background for video recordings.
“Every student is different and attracts different things,” Heath said. “While some students may be great with their hands or create with Legos or more traditional connection toys, others enjoy working with technology and screens.”
The AbbVie team designed the space in collaboration with the Santa Ana Unified School District and the Heart of America Foundation.
“We always develop together rather than using a template,” Heath said. “We design together from the colors to what goes into the classroom.”
AbbVie is now in its seventh year hosting the Week of Possibilities community initiative, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Santa Ana is one of 15 cities across the country where more than 15,000 AbbVie employees volunteer for Opportunity Week projects in collaboration with long-standing nonprofit partners.
“There are 15 projects across the country. This is one of them, and one of the largest outside of North Chicago,” Heath said.
Santa Ana isn’t the only city in Orange County to benefit from AbbVie’s week-long initiative.
Rio Vista Park in Anaheim is getting a new kid-designed playground thanks to a partnership between AbbVie and KABOOM!, a nonprofit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children.
From June 28-30, 125 AbbVie employees in Anaheim will assemble and install new play equipment and bring engineered wood to the play area. The volunteers will also install street games and paintings to beautify the park’s surroundings.
“Playgrounds are an iconic part of childhood,” said KABOOM! Managing Director Lysa Ratliff. “KABOOM! is proud to continue our long-term partnership with AbbVie and to advance our work to ensure every child in every community has access to safe, quality places to play, learn and reach their greatest potential.”
According to Heath, the Heart of America Foundation works closely with AbbVie to select project sites.
“We do diligence by visiting local schools and we take everything into account from necessity to the school population. And leadership is really important,” Heath said, “because when you invest in the school like that, you want it to be preserved and used and accessible to all students.”
Martin Elementary hosts a summer program and the nearly 200 enrolled students can get a head start using the new space.
“They will be able to use these spaces during their traditional school year and outside of the school year,” Heath said.
It’s a benefit for future nurses and future YouTubers alike.
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