STEM AmeriCorps Will Boost U.S. Competitiveness by Building Interest in STEM Professions
Washington, D.C. -- The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will launch a new STEM AmeriCorps initiative to spur student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math education, President Obama announced today at the White House Science Fair.
STEM AmeriCorps is a multi-year initiative to place hundreds of AmeriCorps members in nonprofits across the country to mobilize STEM professionals to inspire young people to excel in STEM education.
“By strengthening STEM education for students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, AmeriCorps will spark greater interest in math and science and build ladders of opportunity these students might otherwise never have,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS, which oversees AmeriCorps. “STEM AmeriCorps will also help our nation compete for the jobs and industries of the future by encouraging more students to go into STEM professions.”
As the first phase, CNCS will place 50 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members with FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people through robotics competitions.
The VISTA members will serve in low-income communities across the country. They will recruit volunteers and support teams of students to participate in FIRST competitions, making it possible for more students to be exposed to the STEM fields. Through a second initiative, AmeriCorps VISTA will also partner with leading nonprofits in the maker movement to create maker spaces in high schools around the country.
These investments will lay the foundation for an AmeriCorps grant competition later this year when STEM will be a priority, allowing the funding of hundreds of STEM-focused AmeriCorps members across the country. AmeriCorps members will recruit and support thousands of STEM professionals to volunteer through in-school, after-school, and other academic programs. To maximize this opportunity, CNCS will pursue partnerships with both the private sector and other federal agencies.
“Many of America's future challenges, from finding new sources of energy to responding to threats to our national security, are going to require new technologies. FIRST and our more than 100,000 volunteers share the vision of inspiring young people to dream of becoming science and technology leaders,” said Bob Tuttle, Interim President, FIRST. “We are grateful to the Corporation for National and Community Service for supporting this vision by providing AmeriCorps VISTAs to help expose more low-income students to the joy and promise of science and technology.”
The Obama Administration has made STEM education a major priority. In 2009, the President launched “Educate to Innovate,” a nationwide effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade. A growing number of jobs require STEM skills, and America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the challenges of the 21st century.
STEM AmeriCorps will advance this national priority by using national service to spur greater interest by K-12 students in the STEM professions. The goals of STEM AmeriCorps include improving academic performance in STEM coursework; expanding the number of students on track to graduate ready for college and for careers in STEM fields; increasing interactions between youth and STEM professionals; and sparking the imagination and interest of students to pursue STEM subjects.
The President's announcement of STEM AmeriCorps comes on the heels of another national service initiative to bolster education. In February, CNCS announced School Turnaround AmeriCorps, a partnership with the Department of Education to place AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. This innovative approach seeks to increase student academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness in those schools.
Today's announcement of additional VISTA members for FIRST expands on the significant support CNCS has provided to FIRST since 2004, including grants to support FIRST Senior Mentors, AmeriCorps NCCC teams to support regional competitions, and AmeriCorps VISTAs to expand FIRST programming in underserved communities. CNCS will build on this public-private partnership by investing $770,000 in AmeriCorps VISTA grants, to be matched by FIRST and its partners. The 50 VISTAs will serve in more than 20 states across the country. More information on the program can be found here.