In her five years volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence (BGCL), Meredith Monaco has been a homework tutor, mentor, and founder of Girl Lab!, a STEM club for middle school girls.
Recently it was the club's turn to give back in recognizing Monaco with the 2017 Paul Cronin Award. Named for late U.S. Congressman Paul Cronin, the honor is presented annually to a club volunteer who goes above and beyond in using education as a tool for kids to fulfill their potential.
"I cried when I read the letter," said Monaco, a principal multidiscipline engineer at Raytheon Company in Andover. "It's such a nice award. I was very touched, and I feel very honored."
The ceremony took place at the club's annual dinner on January 25 for mentors and their youth protégés in recognition of January as National Mentoring Month. Also in attendance was John Cronin, a club supporter and brother of the late Paul Cronin.
"We congratulate Meredith on this well-deserved recognition," said BGCL Executive Director Markus Fischer. "We're very appreciative of her efforts to open new career paths for our girls by making STEM concepts accessible and enjoyable."
Monaco was introduced to BGCL in the spring of 2010, when she volunteered at the Science of Sports science fair hosted by Raytheon and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation for middle school-age members of Boys & Girls Clubs across New England. Two years later, she began volunteering in the BGCL education center and mentored club alumnae Julia Hernandez (currently attending Newbury College) and Rosa Reynoso (who is pursuing an engineering degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute). In 2014, Monaco introduced Girl Lab! through a grant from Raytheon.
Monaco co-leads six-week sessions for girls in grades 5-8 with Hiba Fareed and Lea Daigle, with whom she also participated in the club's career day last spring. Activities have included making lip balm and a silly putty-like "gak" substance, designing soap molds, creating homemade light bulbs, using soda and pop rocks to blow up balloons, a projectile motion project involving Nerf guns, building towers, and an egg drop competition.
"I'm really passionate about getting more girls into engineering," said Monaco, who learned about the field at age 16 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA. "It's still common for girls to think that science is for boys, but there are a lot of ways in which engineering lends itself to female traits - such as problem-solving in a way that is nurturing and will improve the world. In general, we need more women everywhere."
While she appreciates the award, Monaco said the enjoyment she gets from working with the girls is reward enough. Ultimately, she hopes to expand the program to Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide.
"My dream is to make it a standard after-school program," said Monaco. "I don't see an end to the need."
For more information about volunteer and mentoring opportunities, contact BGCL Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Bryant at 978-683-2747, ext. 117 or email@example.com.
There are currently over 150 members of the 1891 Club, the most prestigious donor society at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.