Last month the Research Triangle Foundation submitted an application to the US2020 City Competition as the leader of a Triangle-wide coalition of Park companies and non-profits committed to support a massive effort to increase STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) mentoring of under served students in our region. Research Triangle High School, Citizen Schools of Durham and Cisco Systems and are among our guiding coalition of companies.
We received word last week that our application was selected as a finalist from a pool of 52 Round 1 coalitions nationwide! We now compete in Round 2 with 12 other cities including Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco for three to five winning grant packages. As finalists, our Round 2 application will include a business plan for an online match-making service that will streamline, bolster, and support STEM mentorship opportunities offered to Park employees by simplifying the ways non-profits access and recruit employee volunteers.
The way we see it, the issue isn’t that RTP employees won’t support STEM mentorship and education. The STEM survey our team administered this summer to Park companies told us exactly the opposite. In fact, many of our companies are engaged in mentorship and nearly all would like to participate in an event or initiative that is Park-wide.
The issue with mentorship in our area then is that our non-profit partners are working disjointedly, separately, even sometimes competitively for a relatively small pool of employees that they can appeal to, and by small we mean only the ones they can physically reach as limited by their own capacity. Our match-making database will allow STEM-related non-profits to essentially list “want ads” for volunteers with job descriptions and levels of commitment ranging from an hour a month to ten or more hours per week. They’ll be able to get very specific about what the need is, where, in what school, and what content area is preferred. Then our company partners can find matches through the database to find ways to pitch in that match their schedules, locations, and areas of interest.
Want to be a science fair judge? Done! More interested in talking with a class about what your job is and why you love it? Awesome! Or are you a truly engaged person who wants to coach a whole middle school class on how to compete and maybe even win a science competition? We’ll have opportunities for everyone in our database, and we’ll make it as easy as possible for non-profits and the schools they serve to get the help that they need.
At RTP, we prioritize STEM education in RTP as an investment in our future workforce. Furthermore, our proposed bi-annual Science Showcase will demonstrate the innovation and comradery that results from STEM mentorship between Triangle students and the companies at Research Triangle Park.
A team of coalition members will head to Ideas Camp in Boston this December to meet with the other finalists, US2020 leaders and consultants, to create the business plan framework that will ultimately be submitted for the final round in January. The project would start next summer if we are chosen. We couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity and look forward to creating our plan!
About US2020: US2020 was announced by President Obama at the National Science Fair as a way to incentivize applied science and technology corporations to participate in STEM mentoring in K-12 schools. Founding partners of the national US2020 initiative are Cisco Systems and Citizen Schools. Read more at us2020.org.