Six Ways We Contribute to STEM Education Within Our Community
At PreventionGenetics, we have always believed in giving back to our community. This is especially true when we have the privilege to support local organizations interested in helping students and adults gain access to high-quality education. “The chance to foster individuals’ interests in genetics and contribute to public engagement with STEM has been a positive experience for PreventionGenetics,” noted Dr. James Weber, Founder and CEO of PreventionGenetics. “Our company is dedicated to supporting education at all levels.”
Over the past several years we’ve been excited to see our community grow and bring more educational opportunities to the area.
Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library
In 2016 when the new Marshfield Public Library was being discussed, PreventionGenetics contributed $175,000 to the project and sponsored the teen section. This new facility features state-of-the-art technology, areas for children and teens, small study rooms, spacious reading areas on both floors, and a new Family History and Genealogy Center. PreventionGenetics’ supports people’s ability to access information and literature regardless of their ability to pay, and is very proud to have contributed to this wonderful addition to our community.
During the fall of 2017, we utilized the Library to host a “Power of Genetics: Investing in your Family's Future” workshop. Our team, Christina Zaleski, MS, CGC, Greg Fischer, PhD, and Donna Dorshorst, Director of DNA Banking, led the workshop focused on the value of family health history and DNA banking.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Marshfield Campus STEM Center
Also in 2016, the UW-SP Marshfield Campus needed to enhance its facilities in order to meet the growing needs of the community. About half of their students major in areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. By expanding the facility, UW-SP Marshfield Campus could better meet the demand for STEM jobs in our area and throughout the state. We were excited to contribute $20,000 to this growth, and after community support, the 17,000 square foot facility opened in late 2017. The addition included classroom and lab space for chemistry, microbiology, and CNA programs.
In 2018, our staff participated in the Marshfield STEM Program at the University. Some of our Genetic Counseling Assistants helped students ‘build’ DNA with Twizzlers and marshmallows, and they also led a fun activity with the students to extract DNA from bananas. Additionally, one of our Software Engineers led a session on coding.
Columbus STEM Classrooms
In 2017, when a local high school needed to expand their facility to meet the needs of their growing student population, they proposed building two new STEM classrooms. This new addition features state-of-the-art labs for chemistry, physics, biology, and other science related courses. We’re pleased to have been able to support science education at this school in the amount of $50,000.
Community Genetic Courses
Every year PreventionGenetics hosts multiple educational workshops in the community. “Participants have varied in age from teenagers to retired physicians. Our community members are eager to learn more about the power of genetics,” said Christina Zaleski, Director of Genetic Counseling and Client Services. “It’s rewarding to give back to the community and help raise awareness of the importance of family health history, DNA banking, careers in genetics and, the value of genetic testing.” In 2019, we will be offering genetics courses through Mid-State Technical College for interested community members.
In 2015 the Samoset Council was chosen as one of twelve Boy Scout councils in the United States to participate in the STEM Scouts Pilot Program. The STEM Scouts is a program for boys and girls 3rd - 12th grade who are interested in a new form of scouting, with an emphasis on STEM. During its first year, Samoset Council was able to create 15 STEM Labs, serving 158 youth within Central Wisconsin. This past year that number grew to 40 STEM Labs, serving over 360 STEM Scouts.
Shortly after it started, PreventionGenetics hosted the STEM Scouts’ labs onsite for a year and has continued to provide annual financial support. We are currently sponsoring the Marshfield Middle School Labs.
Collaboration with the University of Wisconsin
Many of our laboratory technicians received their college educations within the University of Wisconsin System. Dr. Luke Drury, our Director of the Sequencing Lab, seeing the high number of graduates we hired from UW decided to reach out to forge a partnership between PreventionGenetics and the UW System. With the help of Professor Diane Caporale at UW-SP we were able to kick off a collaboration that includes: on-site genetics workshops with lab tours, undergraduate student interns, guest lectures at universities, curriculum discussion, and joint research projects.
Last fall at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting in San Diego, a group of UW-SP undergraduate students presented a poster together with PreventionGenetics staff on an in vitro minigene splicing assay that has helped with variant interpretation.
We’re pleased to see our community continue to grow and provide new education opportunities. “PreventionGenetics strongly supports education at all levels. For our employees, this means continuing education, but we also support education of younger students and the general public,” added Dr. Weber.