Instilling a Passion for Data Analytics in Boston High School Students

April 14, 2022

In June 2021, Alice Mello, Ph.D., was granted an award to develop and run a novel program, ‘Data Analytics Workshop: Empowering Minority High School Students with In-Demand Career Skills’ – from the Northeastern Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She also has leveraged support from the College of Professional Studies to support this high-impact initiative.

Alice Mello headshot
Alice Mello, Ph.D., assistant teaching professor in analytics

Mello’s interest was to ignite a passion for data analytics among the participating students through this preparatory course led by four graduate student mentors selected from the Master of Professional Studies in Analytics program, where Mello serves as an assistant teaching professor.

Called “Storytelling with Data,” the program was launched in three local schools: Edward M Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, where an in-person calculus class of 12 students studied data sets on Boston hospitals and COVID; Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where two computer science classes attended virtual classes to study data sets on the chosen topics of games, movies, and Halloween; and Boston Day and Evening Academy, an alternative school for high school students, which attracted 13 math students for in-person learning. Students at the Academy first asked to study the war in Ukraine, but since data sets for this were hard to come by, they opted for public transportation instead.

Mentors began classes by explaining how data can be used to tell stories, by providing the context for any number of situations to show what is happening behind the scenes – and then how facts can create a visualization of patterns using the data visualization tool, Tableau. The climax of the story comes when the data reveals conflicts – which the data can also help resolve, using dashboards within Tableau.

The main goal of the program is to empower students to enter the field of data analytics, with a view to addressing the lack of diversity in the analytics field by inspiring students to continue their education at Bunker Hill Community College, the largest and most diverse community college in Massachusetts. This past year, CPS formed an agreement with BHCC that allows an easy transfer pathway for interested students, while offering Lowell Institute School scholarship support, depending on their financial needs.

“I am delighted at the success of this experience so far, both for the high school students and our MPSA graduate students (Teach to Learn and Learn to Teach!),” says Mello. “I’m committed to finding grant opportunities to offer this program on a yearly basis and I’m hopeful that we’ll see some of these students in our Bachelor of Science in Analytics or Bachelor of Science in Information Technology programs in a few years’ time!”