A welcome RTP win

May. 29, 2014 @ 08:26 AM

US2020, a coalition of leading education non-profits and corporate leaders in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field, has high ambitions.

The group, spawned by a White House call for greater emphasis and broader participation in those fields, declares its ambitions on it website:

“The long-term goal of the initiative is to mobilize 1 million STEM mentors annually by the year 2020, creating millions of moments of discovery -- those life changing events when children launch rockets, build robots, write a computer program, or look into the farthest reaches of the universe.  US2020 relies on a committed and growing community of public, private, non-profit, and individual partners.”

Tuesday, leaders of the Research Triangle Foundation were at the White House for the happy announcement that RTP has been selected as one of seven cities to encourage mentorship to channel more youngsters, especially women, minorities and children from low-income families into the STEM fields.

It is a significant endorsement of this region’s status as a leader in the modern, knowledge-based economy.  We’ll even overlook the fact that RTP is lumped as a “city” with the other winners -- although it’s not a city and three quarters of it is encompassed within Durham County.

The competition to be selected for the US2020 STEM mentoring program was stiff – the seven cities were chosen from more than 50 competing cities.  Their selection was announced Tuesday at the White House Science Fair, where President Barack Obama lauded the program.

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

A founding sponsor of the US2020 organization was Cisco Systems, which has operations in RTP and which nationwide has committed to having 20 percent of its workforce volunteer 20 hours or more in STEM mentoring by 2020. Fidelity Investments, also with a substantial RTP presence, is among other companies that have signed on.

In the RTP initiative, 41 companies and educational organizations – including Fidelity, Research Triangle High School and Durham Public Schools -- have teamed up to agree to provide mentorships and leadership.

Besides RTP, other winners in the US2020 competition were Allentown, Pennsylvania; Chicago; Indianapolis; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Wichita, Kansas. That puts us in some pretty august company, and a reminder that this region is increasingly mentioned in the same breath as far larger metropolitan areas when it comes to discussing innovation and creativity.

“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, CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation, said Tuesday.

The pride is well justified, and we look forward to watching the impact of this effort at inspiring more, and more diverse, pursuit of STEM careers.