7th Graders Meeting their Cambridge Systematics NetPals for the First Time in the Fall
Did you know a child who was obsessed with trains, trucks, and transport? For seventh graders at the Rindge Avenue Upper School (RAUS), that childhood interest can deepen through mentorship from a transportation systems consultant from Cambridge Systematics (CS). CS has demonstrated extraordinary dedication, marking 15 years of volunteerism as a CSV NetPals partner this year. The NetPals program is now part of CS’s corporate culture, with volunteers from entry-level staff up to and including its CEO.
The NetPals partnership began with about 15-20 sixth graders at the former Fitzgerald School (now RAUS). The timing was right, as CS was looking to expand its commitment to the Cambridge community. Former CS President Lance Neumann, who himself volunteered as a NetPal, remembers that “employees totally enjoyed the experience, getting as much from the students as they were getting from their NetPals.” Initially focused on English Language Arts, students communicated weekly with employees via e-mail to share information about school and even poems and essays.
Over time, the focus changed from Language Arts to math and science. And, the numbers kept growing as the school grew. Then, with the creation of middle schools in Cambridge, NetPals changed to include all seventh graders.
The current coordinator for the CS program, Senior Associate Cathy DeMaggio, has watched NetPals blossom into the program it is today. There are now typically 40 employees involved, from accountants and administrators to environmental specialists and transportation software engineers. Students and NetPals currently meet three times a year: at the Cambridge Systematics office, at the RAUS for a Math Breakfast with presentations by employees around using math in everyday life, and at the school’s annual Science Fair, where students share their projects in physics, chemistry and life sciences. Plus, two other companies (Grace and Vecna, also located in the Alewife area) have joined the NetPals program, allowing even more CPSD students to benefit from the one-to-one relationships that develop with their corporate partners.
Current President and CEO Brad Wright, himself a NetPal, believes firmly in the value of the program linking students and corporate employees. “The CSV NetPals program has been a great opportunity for CS staff to engage with students in the Cambridge school system. We all look forward to the weekly email exchanges with our NetPals and to meeting with them in person to learn more about the work they are doing in school.” CSV salutes Cambridge Systematics on its decade and a half of giving back.