Thursday, January 14, 2016

FIRST Junior STEAM mentor follows his dreams

One of the valuable components of our fourth grade FIRST Junior STEAM program is the mentoring. Community mentors serve as classroom helpers and offer guidance while the elementary students navigate the new-to-them world of programming and robotics. Often, they are current business people in the tech industry, making many of our mentors real world role models for what opportunities are available to students' futures as they move through school and focus on interests in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Steve Messa has been mentoring Mrs. Buzzell's class at Green Acres since FIRST Junior STEAM started there last school year. He is a Manchester native -- and Green Acres, McLaughlin Middle School and Memorial High School graduate! -- who co-founded VidFall, an online/mobile events platform that helps brands better market their products and services through live and trending videos. "Think of it as the next frontier for online marketing," Steve said.

Steve has given his time to the fourth graders every week, helping them reach their FIRST Junior STEAM goals. He says he gained just as much from the students as they did from him.

"I got to see first-hand the way students can transform from lacking in confidence to literally leading their groups," Steve said.

As a start-up entrepreneur, Steve knows it's crucial to learn about the problem that needs to be solved, and then build a product that solves the problem.

"Much of this learning is done through experimentation, trying ideas, and testing the market's reaction, and that's exactly what we taught students in FIRST Junior STEAM Ahead," Steve said. Sometimes, the shortest route to a solution is simply testing out all options, and seeing students realize this was enlightening to me."

Now Steve and his VidFall co-founder have the exciting chance to move their company to Scottsdale, Arizona, where they say investors and close proximity to the west coast will give VidFall a big boost to hit their business goals. This week, just days before his move to Arizona, Mrs. Buzzell's class and this year's fifth graders, who benefited from Steve's knowledge last year, gave him a Green Acres send-off. Steve's mom was there, too, to hear all the wonderful things teachers and students said about her son.

FIRST Junior STEAM will miss Steve. But we also understand this is an opportunity too big to pass up, and it's the kind of thing we hope all of our students aspire to. We wish him well!

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