United Way of the Bluegrass (UWBG) has focused a great deal of its work in Education in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). STEM related occupations are the leading area for employment and job growth. According to Linda Rosen from Change the Equation, jobs requiring STEM related backgrounds and/or skills, will grow 17 percent between 2008 and 2018…far faster than the projected 10 percent growth projected for overall employment.
The attention around STEM jobs has even made it to our Nation’s capital. In between discussions of Elvis Day and the Fiscal Cliff, the House of Representatives passed the STEM Jobs Act of 2012. This piece of legislation would make over 55,000 visas available for foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in the STEM areas. While the political winds don’t favor the passage of this legislation by the Senate, the mere existence of it illustrates the growing need in our nation for STEM educated professionals.
UWBG has invested a great deal of resources, time, and funding into the support of STEM education. To date we have helped launch a number of programs including:
- BMW STEM Academy: Designed as an enhancement to First Bracktown Church’s program BMW Academy which works on the personal and academic development of African-American males. The STEM Academy, funded by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, uses tutoring and experiential learning to improve their academic performance in the areas of science and math. The program has been in place for two years and has seen positive results in science and math grades. Chase recently announced a third year of funding for the STEM Academy.
- Madison STEM Infusion: Through a grant from the American Honda Foundation, Madison County students were given an exposure to the various aspects of STEM. This program used family nights, overnight lock-ins, and summer camp to engage students (and their parents) in experiential learning opportunities to increase excitement about STEM. The goal was to inspire kids to take STEM related courses and for parents to encourage their participation and performance. Recently Verizon has given a grant to United Way to continue STEM Infusion in Madison County.
- Woodford STEM Infusion: Funded by grant from UWBG’s Woodford County Board of Trustees, this program adds a blend of STEM Infusion and STEM academic support to the Mentors & Meals program. M&M is an afterschool program that provides a meal and tutoring/homework help to kids in Woodford County.
- Lockheed Martin STEM Infusion: Through grant funding made possible by Lockheed Martin, the Girl Scouts, Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council implemented a Harry Potter-style STEM camp that used experiential learning to increase enthusiasm and interest in STEM education.
UWBG sees the academic success of children in Central Kentucky as a key indicator in its pursuit of successful community change. United Way’s work in Education is guided by a continuum that focuses on success in pre-K through transition to career readiness. This focus is not a simple set of markers we hope to achieve; it is a plan to make Central Kentucky as successful as it can be… In order for success to truly be achieved, we must focus on the area of greatest opportunity and in today’s economy that opportunity is STEM.
Director, Community Impact