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Lehigh Valley Community Foundation President and CEO Bernard J. Story announced the grant and presented a $20,000 check to Da Vinci Science Center Chairman Vincent Sorgi Friday afternoon at the start of the Center’s quarterly Board of Trustees meeting. The check represents the first year of funding for a potential five-year grant totaling $100,000.
Spearheaded by the Da Vinci Science Center, the Mentor Allentown Coalition is working to increase interest in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – among low-income students, students from minority populations, and female students, thereby encouraging them to pursue STEM careers and family-sustaining jobs. The Coalition is one of ten groups leading a national movement to change the way that students are mentored toward STEM careers with funding and support from US2020, a subsidiary of the national Citizen Schools organization.
The grant from the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation (LVCF) was awarded through its Community Partnership Fund. This grant was one of five multi-year collaborative projects targeted to address specific community issues. The Community Foundation’s focus on supporting STEM education for 2015 was developed in response to the growing demand for skilled workers by technology companies in the Lehigh Valley. A total of 18.7 percent of Lehigh Valley jobs in 2011 required a high level of STEM knowledge, and the U.S. Department of Commerce projects there will be 1.2 million STEM job openings nationally by the year 2018.
“Through its support of the Mentor Allentown Coalition, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation is making an important strategic investment in the quality of life throughout our region,” Story said. “By connecting mentors and students in schools and nonprofit organizations throughout our area, the Mentor Allentown Coalition has the exceptional potential to transform the lives of students who are most at risk by exposing them to careers that will provide family-sustaining wages and helping them gain confidence that they can be successful in the future.”
Since its formation in the spring of 2014, the Mentor Allentown Coalition has been developing networks to recruit, train, and place STEM professionals with mentoring opportunities in the Allentown School District and with organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown, the Allentown YMCA and YWCA, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Da Vinci Science Center.
The Mentor Allentown Coalition has responded to a directive by US2020 for all of its city coalitions to focus most of their efforts through June 30, 2015, on building their capacities for recruiting and matching mentors with program opportunities. While building its capacity, Mentor Allentown has recruited 212 mentors and more than 700 students have been involved with affiliated programs as of Feb. 16, 2015. The Coalition also is working to match at least 500 students with mentors and to match mentors with program opportunities. Mentoring highlights include work with seventh grade students at Trexler Middle School to help them create projects for the district’s science fair and Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) competitions.
The Coalition has signed a letter of intent with US2020 to receive non-cash support during the fiscal year starting July 1, 2015, and has secured additional financial support from the Rider-Pool Foundation.
“Partners like the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and the Mentor Allentown Coalition of schools, companies, universities, and nonprofit organizations help the Da Vinci Science Center fulfill its mission of bringing science to life and lives to science,” said Lin Erickson, the Center’s Executive Director and CEO. “An important component of our mission is increasing student interest and achievement in the STEM subjects, thereby preparing students to be able to meet the growing demand for skilled employees throughout our area.”
About the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation
The Lehigh Valley Community Foundation is one of the largest public grant-making organizations in the Lehigh Valley, managing almost 200 charitable funds representing over $40 million in assets. The Community Foundation gathers and pools contributions, large and small, invests them wisely for growth, and makes grants to a wide variety of charitable organizations to improve the region’s quality of life.