Today, we’re talking to Representative Graig Meyer of North Carolina. Rep. Meyer is part of the inaugural class of STEMx Policy Fellows from across the country. They are spending the next two years learning from and with other policymakers from STEMx states to take new ideas back to their own community. Before becoming a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, Rep. Meyer was an educator and he wants to help bridge the two worlds so that policy does translate on the ground.
Welcome Rep. Meyer! What does it mean to you being a STEMx Policy Fellow?
It is an honor to be among the initial group of STEMx Policy Fellows. It’s exciting to be a trailblazer. As someone who spent almost twenty years working in schools, it can be hard to move to the policy level. We have different levers at the legislative level, and I’m still figuring out exactly the best ways to use my power to help students and schools. Being a STEMx Policy Fellow provides me the chance get up to speed through the access I have to national leaders and fellow legislators. I really think this will help me be more effective in my legislative role.
Tell us about your time as an educator and what inspired you to become a policy maker.
I’m a social worker, but I have always worked in schools. For sixteen years, I ran the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro (NC) City Schools. We matched kids with mentors in the fourth grade, and we trained their parents and the mentors to do school advocacy (parent teacher conferences, IEP meetings, etc.) as a team. We supported the kids all the way through enrollment in college. During my time at BRMA, we had a 97.5% high school graduation rate and 100% of our program graduates went on to post-secondary education. Almost all of those kids were first-generation college students. It was great work. I miss them every day.
My experience working in schools was mostly focused on college and career access for students of color. I want to create policies that ensure that students like mine are able to access STEM learning experiences so that they are ready for STEM careers. Many times my students lacked exposure to the variety of STEM careers that are out there and they almost never had the type of mentoring relationships needed to access those careers. I really want to work on creating mechanisms that help walk a talented student from the classroom to a career.
What do you hope to learn during your time as a STEMx Policy Fellow?
I want to learn from the experiences of other states. Legislators are always curious about how things are done differently across the country. I really want to rely on my STEMx colleagues as people whom I can call on for ideas. It’s also a great way to find common ground across party lines. For instance, I think Rep. Ling Ling Chang (R-California) and I were surprised to find out how much we have in common even though we’re from different political parties.
How do you think this fellowship will help you and North Carolina be a leader in STEM education?
One thing that has already helped me is that I have made connections with schools and school districts that are already doing great STEM work .I spent my entire career working in one school district, and there are 115 in North Carolina. I’m particularly interested in what is going on in rural areas, because I think that those students have the least access to STEM exposure. I’ve been working hard to visit schools and learn from other leaders. I want to help disseminate their good ideas and maybe even turn some of their work into projects being done statewide.
Thanks so much for your time, Representative Meyer!
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