US2020, the city’s new effort to get more minority and female students into STEM fields, kicks off this fall with two mentorship programs. The idea is to start small and eventually scale up.
One program will pair teams of employees from the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology with 10 students from Chester A. Arthur, a K-8 public school in Graduate Hospital with a STEM focus. Throughout the school year, the mentors will meet with students once a week for two hours.
The other program focuses on sports.
Sixty middle school students, who will likely be from North Philadelphia and the West Philadelphia “Promise Zone,” will participate in weekly, sports design, medicine and management STEM activities with their mentors, said Kendrick Davis, the city’s director of STEM initiatives. The program will be run with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Philadelphia Youth Network.
US2020 is a White House initiative, but Philadelphia is not one of the five cities that are getting a piece of the $1 million US2020 funding pot to implement its program. Instead, the city is working with corporate partners, like manufacturing company St. Gobain, who is granting the program $155,000, Mayor Michael Nutter announced at a press conference Monday. IBM is also helping to back the program, according to a release.
'It's the concrete example versus the abstract,' said Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, that gets children interested in science.
The program kicked off at Penn’s Houston Hall Monday morning with a keynote from the Franklin Institute‘s Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts and a panel discussion, which was, full disclosure, moderated by this reporter. The theme of the morning was collaboration between business, government and education leaders (“Everyone has a role to play,” Nutter said) and how mentorship and hands-on experiences can shape a child’s life.
That morning, many, including Nutter, Pitts and Darrell Williams, VP of Operations for a St. Gobain subsidiary, shared stories of pivotal experiences in their childhood, like Nutter’s first job at the pharmacy in his West Philly neighborhood and how Pitts’ mom would take he and his brother to the Philadelphia airport to watch the planes take off and how that led him to be interested in aviation.
“It’s the concrete example versus the abstract,” Pitts said, that gets children interested in science and other fields.
He recalled that, growing up, the deacon at his church brought him and other children to an office of Rohm & Haas (now Dow Chemical) in Connecticut to introduce them to a black chemist.
“That was part of what got me interested in being a scientist,” he said.
As part of US2020, the city will launch STEMcityPHL, an online resource for STEM mentors, later this fall.
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