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Allentown, Pa., has been chosen through the US2020 City Competition as one of three American cities that will lead a national movement to change the way that students are mentored toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Allentown was named one of three Grand Prize winners in the US2020 City Competition on Tuesday during the annual White House Science Fair in Washington, D.C. The Mentor Allentown Coalition – a partnership of more than 30 organizations convened by the Da Vinci Science Center – will share funding and volunteer resources worth approximately $1 million with groups from the other Grand Prize-winning cities – Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Chicago, Ill.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and representatives from the Mentor Allentown Coalition announced project plans Wednesday during a news conference at PPL Corporation headquarters.
The Mentor Allentown project will create the local systems and structures that make it possible to provide high-impact mentoring to at least 2,000 low-income students, students of minority backgrounds, and girls in Allentown – thereby tripling the number of students mentored in STEM subjects currently in Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. Mentor Allentown Coalition leaders believe that these mentors will encourage more young people to pursue STEM careers – careers that provide family-sustaining wages, support existing Lehigh Valley companies, and attract new companies to the region.
“The city of Allentown is undergoing a huge transformation that will have far-reaching effects, including thousands of new jobs and a vitality that our city has not seen for decades,” Mayor Pawlowski said. “Mentor Allentown will be equally transformational in the lives of Allentown’s young people.”
US2020, an initiative of the national nonprofit organization Citizen Schools, is seeking to encourage more young people to consider careers in STEM fields by mentoring at least one million low-income students, students from minority backgrounds, and girls by the year 2020. American STEM companies indicate that they are struggling already with an aging workforce and a shortage of qualified workers, and the U.S. Department of Commerce projects that there will be 1.2 million STEM job openings by the year 2018.
Mentor Allentown will train STEM professionals to provide at least ten hours of direct and effective contact with students. The extended relationships between mentors and students along with Mentor Allentown’s program evaluations and training for mentors will ensure its effectiveness and help create a national model for successful STEM mentorship in cities.
“The Mentor Allentown initiative – through the support of US2020 and its community partners – is about getting young people excited about STEM subjects, building student interest and achievement in these subjects,” said Lin Erickson, Da Vinci Science Center Executive Director and CEO. “Mentoring is a powerful way to make that happen. By developing high-impact mentoring opportunities, STEM employees will have a profound and prolonged relationship with students that can make meaningful differences in their lives.”
The Da Vinci Science Center will lead the Mentor Allentown project with David Smith, Ph.D., the Center’s Senior Director of Science and Strategic Initiatives, convening the coalition. The Center is in the process of hiring a project manager and three AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to develop the program from July 2014-July 2015. These professionals will be responsible for building the program’s capacity to be sustained on a long-term basis.