RTP one of seven winners of STEM mentoring contest

May. 27, 2014 @ 10:11 PM

The White House has named the Research Triangle Park as one of seven winners of a competition that challenged cities to create programs for encouraging mentorship in science, technology, engineering and math.

The seven winning communities will share $1 million to launch STEM mentoring campaigns that connect companies and students in each region. In the Research Triangle Park, 41 companies and educational organizations have teamed up to provide mentorship and leadership locally.

“We are so proud and delighted to have been chosen to be a grand prize winner in the pursuit of such an important goal,” Bob Geolas, the CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, said in a statement. The foundation is a nonprofit that manages the Research Triangle Park.

The foundation applied to get the park in the running for the US2020 City Competition.

The contest called for cities to develop models to increase the number of STEM professionals mentoring and teaching students through hands-on projects. 

Geolas was at the White House on Tuesday for the announcement of the seven winners. He said the president talked about the importance of science and technology and about how mentorship, through the initiative, “was key to getting more young people excited about a future in the sciences.”

“It’s always a privilege to meet the president,” Geolas said in an email. “To do so representing NC and RTP was very humbling and a great honor.”

Other winners of the STEM mentorship competition were Allentown, Pennsylvania; Chicago; Indianapolis; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Wichita, Kansas.
US2020 will provide the RTP and the six cities with financial support, VISTA AmeriCorps members, consulting from Discovery Communications, access to the US2020 mentor-matching platform, and other services.
In addition, Discovery Communications will air a public service announcement starring “MythBusters” and Science Channel's “Head Rush” host Kari Byron focusing on the need to recruit STEM mentors to help encourage students at a young age, especially girls and minorities who are under-represented in STEM careers.

US2020, a group of companies and education-focused nonprofits, will lead the RTP and six other winning cities in launching mentoring campaigns, according to a release from the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

Formed in response to a White House call to create solutions to the country’s STEM education challenge, the US2020 group has a goal of matching 1 million STEM mentors with students by 2020. It’s particularly focused on increasing STEM opportunities and for girls, underrepresented minorities and children from low-income families.  

Cisco Systems Inc. is a founding partner of US2020 and is the official sponsor of the competition. The California-based company, which has operations in the Research Triangle Park, has made a pledge to commit 20 percent of its U.S. workforce to volunteering 20 hours or more in STEM mentoring by 2020.

An official from Cisco was among leaders credited with helping to pull together corporations and nonprofits locally for the mentorship effort. Other leaders came from Fidelity Investments, Research Triangle High School and Durham Public Schools, according to information from the Research Triangle Foundation.

The mentoring effort was one of a number of initiatives expected to be announced by President Obama on Tuesday as part of his “Education to Innovate” campaign, which aims to get more girls and boys into STEM.

According to the White House news release, other new initiates included a $35 million U.S. Department of Education competition to help meet a goal of training 100,000 STEM teachers and an expansion of the AmeriCorps program to provide STEM learning opportunities for 18,000 low-income students this summer.

“When students excel in math and science, they’re laying the groundwork for helping America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” Obama said.