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Monday, December 17, 2012

Chase invests in STEM opportunities for Central Ky. kids through grant to United Way


Chase continues their investment in our community through United Way of the Bluegrass with a $70,000 grant to continue the successful STEM Academy, a community-based extended school day program in partnership with Fayette County Public Schools and First Bracktown, Inc.

The grant, the third of a $170,000 total investment by Chase in this program, will allow the STEM Academy to continue another year and expand to younger students. The program engages African-American male middle school students in academically enriched out-of-school time activities.

“As a commercial banker and the president of Chase in Central Kentucky, I know firsthand the importance of STEM programming because I use math, science and technology every day to run my business,” says Don Hellman. “So when asked to partner with United Way Bluegrass to support the BMW programming, we knew what we had to do. Over the past two years, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation provided $100,000 to support STEM programming and I’m proud to say that we’re presenting the United Way with an additional $70,000 – totaling $170,000 towards this important effort to eliminate the very real academic deficits among our African American male middle school students.”

Built on the foundations of First Bracktown Inc.’s Black Males Working (BMW) Program, the STEM Academy provides intensive afterschool, weekend and summer academic instruction and enhancement opportunities. The goal is for students to achieve academic success, transition to postsecondary opportunities and ultimately a successful career. The STEM Academy has an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The $70,000 investment is helping the program to expand to include Pre-BMW (second and third grade) and Junior BMW (fourth and fifth grade) programming. The inclusion of these two new programs would help eliminate academic deficits in sixth graders entering the BMW-STEM program. The goal is to have incoming sixth graders in the BMW-STEM program enter with similar levels of knowledge and ability in order to increase their chances of academic success.

Specifically, The Academy partnership proposes to add the Pre-BMW and Junior BMW programs, while maintaining its current programming serving middle to high school students at Bracktown. The expansion into the younger grades will act as a ‘feeder’ into the middle/high school program at Bracktown. The work on academics during the Pre and Junior programs will mean increased success for participants as they enter middle and high school. The critical expansion into the younger grades will take place at two other churches in Lexington. Shiloh Baptist church has agreed to host the Pre-BMW programming and Consolidated Baptist church will support the Junior BMW program. Both churches have agreed to support the program efforts, and coordinators for both sites have been identified.

The Pre-BMW and Junior BMW programs will be smaller in scope but will still host 50 boys in each program. Both programs will take place on two Saturdays a month and will feature many of the same elements of the core BMW STEM Academy. In total, the three components of the program will service 150 African-American males in Fayette County. Plans include age and grade appropriate instruction and tutoring in the areas of Math, Science, and Reading; learning activities to enhance critical thinking; and experiential learning opportunities, including trips, experiments and guest speakers to build interest and enthusiasm for math and science.

“We are excited to continue this partnership with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation,” said Bill Farmer, president of United Way of the Bluegrass. “The STEM Academy has proven to be highly effective, and we believe it will lay the groundwork for similar programs in our community.”

STEM fields play an increasingly critical role in ensuring the community’s economic vitality and the economic growth of the nation as a whole. Every high school graduate needs essential competencies in STEM as preparation for postsecondary education, work, and citizenship. Regardless of the path they choose after high school graduation, all middle school students can benefit from a rigorous and relevant STEM education. Through the STEM Academy, students will be better prepared for the challenges and opportunities in the 21st century economy.

“Our goal with the STEM Academy is to educate, motivate and activate the potential for excellence and to close the achievement gap,” said Roszalyn Akins of First Bracktown, Inc., the visionary behind the BMW program at First Bracktown. “This cannot be accomplished in isolation. Thanks to JPMorgan Chase Foundation, United Way of the Bluegrass and Fayette County Public Schools, more children will be successful.”

From United of the Bluegrass