Verizon Foundation Boosting STEM Education in Chicago

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Jessica Shih

This week, the Verizon Foundation presented $40,000 in grants to help provide critical support to three organizations providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education programs to students in the Chicago area. The organizations include Corliss High School, the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Zoological Society. The number of STEM jobs in the U.S. is projected to increase to more than 9 million by 2022, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These grants will help inspire students through unique programming geared toward the sciences so they are ready to take on these professional opportunities. “STEM education programs help provide students with valuable skills that translate into the current workforce needs of today,” said Antoinette Billinger-Jones, IT director, Verizon, and a graduate of Chicago Public Schools. “By placing value on STEM education and supporting programs to help students fall in love with the sciences like I did years ago, Verizon is helping to pave their way to successful careers.”

The grant to Corliss High School will continue to support the early college STEM programming the school provides its students. In 2012, Corliss High School was identified as one of five Chicago Public schools to focus specifically on STEM education. Since then, Verizon has partnered with the school to provide mentorship in the classroom and to ensure they have the funds necessary to support STEM curriculum. “Our partnership with Verizon has afforded Corliss High School students the opportunity to participate in some phenomenal real world experiences,” said Leonard Harris, principal of Corliss High School. “Through exposure to mentorship, dual enrollment programs and project-based learning, our students have gained invaluable insight and technology skills that will prepare them to fill much-needed STEM careers in the near future.”

Pictured from left to right: Jo-Elle Mogerman (Vice President of Institutional Planning & Inclusion, Chicago Zoological Society), Leonard Harris (Principal, Corliss High School), Antoinette Billinger-Jones (IT Director, Verizon), Rhona Frazin (President & CEO, Chicago Public Library Foundation) and Brian Bannon (Commissioner, Chicago Public Library).

The grant to the Chicago Public Library Foundation will support Rahm’s Readers, the Library’s Summer Learning Challenge, which focuses on combatting the “summer slide,” a term for loss of academic skills over the summer break. In 2013, Chicago Public Library redesigned their traditional summer reading program to focus on the importance of all types of learning. Children have the opportunity to improve their reading skills and participate in guided STEM experiments and design projects. “At Chicago Public Library, we are committed to inspiring continuous learning, exploration and growth,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “This generous donation from the Verizon Foundation will help provide children and families with activities during the summer, aimed at nurturing learning and building 21st century skills.”

The grant to the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which operates Brookfield Zoo, will support the King Conservation Science Scholars Program. The program aims to develop scientifically literate, college-ready and career-ready teens who are prepared to resolve the major environmental and technological issues facing the greater Chicago area and this country. King Scholars also develop and implement environmental community engagement projects at Brookfield Zoo or in their neighborhoods.