How Washington STEM is responding to COVID-19

Angela Jones, CEO, shares her thoughts and plans for Washington STEM in these challenging times.

On March 6, Washington STEM’s staff, like many of you, moved to work from home status. That seems like an eternity ago. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to work remotely have cobbled together home offices where we sit through Zoom calls, spend time working with colleagues through Microsoft Teams—and homeschool children if we also happen to be parents. However, we know many Washingtonians do not have the ability to work remotely. Many of our community members have been laid off, furloughed, or in some cases are still working—serving on the frontlines of this evolving health crisis. Our minds and hearts are with them.

In these unprecedented times, we at Washington STEM can’t help but think about our students and our littlest learners. Prior to the onset, our state was already engaged in a struggle to ensure access to high quality daycare—a necessary element for our youngest to get the best starts in their educational careers. And now, with the health crisis and uncertainty about the future, thousands of workers who can least afford to bear the cost of this will suffer and a system that was already in crisis will become even more unstable without additional support. Older students across the state are wondering about when they might return, whether they will graduate, and what their futures hold. They are missing basketball games, internships, milestone moments, the comfort of being able to hug a friend, and possibly their graduation ceremonies.

Washington STEM remains focused on strengthening the critical systems that comprise our great state. We’re reaching out to our STEM network partners across Washington and engaging them in conversations around how we might be able to help. We’re also actively examining how we might pivot to serve our community differently in this moment, given our unique role in working at the systems level and with data. Our team is more committed than ever to ensuring that when we get through this—and we will get through this—that we can help those who are furthest from opportunity gain access to the skills and pathways they will need to thrive.

First things first, though. Let’s work together to take care of our people right now and make sure that kids are fed, families are healthy, and our community’s most vulnerable are protected.  We salute the heroes on the frontline: our first responders, our healthcare providers, those medical students in New York who are graduating early to join the fight because their skills are needed, the grocery checkers, the delivery workers, our corporate partners who are stepping up to source N95 masks, our philanthropic partners, our childcare providers, our postal carriers, our educators working to provide learning resources, and the great leaders of our state. We can all play a role in stamping out this virus. Let’s love our neighbors and our communities, just from a distance for now. We got this, Washington.