Several suburban Washington, D.C., schools are slated to receive $1 million from a local chapter of a defense industry nonprofit group to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs.
The program, sponsored by AFCEA Bethesda in Maryland, aims to identify children — particularly girls and minorities — who have an early interest in STEM and help guide them from grade school through college.
The four institutions selected serve students from a range of age levels: One is a private grade school, and another is a Big Ten university. The schools agreed to collaborate to make sure their curricula feeds into the next institution and that they work to share resources that could be helpful to their students.
The program “creates the glue to not get lost along the way,” said Michael Priddy, former vice president of education at AFCEA Bethesda and current president and CEO of Intervise.
As the four schools are located so close to the nation’s capital, the program also has the potential to touch the federal workforce, where there have been recent efforts to bolster recruitment of STEM workers.
For example, Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland selected to receive a grant, has a large number of students from the federal sector and private industry looking to upgrade their skills, said Rose Garvin-Aquilino, the school’s director of corporate and foundation relations. Also, the school’s mentor-mentee day brings in some professionals who work in government, so that career track is particularly visible.
Sanjay Rai, senior vice president for academic affairs at Montgomery College, said, overall, the need for a STEM-trained worker is much higher today than it was several years ago, and community colleges are in a unique position to fill that need.
“Community colleges are accessible – geographically and financially,” Rai said.
Garvin-Aquilino said Montgomery College’s ongoing relationship with AFCEA Bethesda has already benefited its students. So far, 68 students have received scholarships, she said. And recently, one of its students was able to nab an informational interview with the company of one of AFCEA Bethesda’s top brass.
“It’s that opportunity that’s really powerful,” Rose said.
Over the next five years, through the grant program:
- Bullis School, an independent primary and high school in Potomac, Maryland, will receive $75,000 for an initiative to investigate how best to reinforce interest in STEM careers for girls from grade school through college.
- Montgomery College Foundation will receive $225,000 for student scholarships as well as for a STEM engagement workshop for middle school girls, called the Sonya Kovalevsky Program.
- The University of Maryland at College Park will receive $425,000 in support of the AFCEA Bethesda Scholarship Program and Computer Science Connect – a three-year outreach initiative that encourages young women and racial minorities to explore computer science.
- The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland, and the University System of Maryland Foundation Inc. will receive $100,000 for scholarships.
- AFCEA International Education Foundation will receive $25,000 annual for STEM teacher scholarships.