Wichita among national winners for STEM mentoring programs

05/27/2014 9:23 AM

05/27/2014 9:28 AM

Wichita is one of seven winners of a national competition to encourage mentoring programs in science, technology, engineering and math, officials announced Tuesday.

The winners will share $1 million in financial, consulting and staff support resources over the next year to launch their plans.

Wichita hopes to bolster STEM mentoring programs for girls, low-income youths and students of color by creating a pipeline of trained volunteers. Details about Wichita’s plans – including information about becoming a mentor – can be found at a new website, http://stempact2020.org/.

Winners of the US2020 competition will be recognized during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Tuesday as part of the White House Science Fair.

“This is a chance to really impact our community,” said Larry Whitman, associate dean for undergraduate education at Wichita State University’s College of Engineering. “We talk about the ups and downs of local industry, but the downs happen more when companies feel there’s not a skilled workforce.

“This program will help us encourage more young people to pursue technology careers.”

The US2020 competition, sponsored by Cisco, challenged cities to develop models for increasing the number of STEM professionals mentoring and teaching students through hands-on projects. Public-private coalitions from 52 cities applied.

Grand prize winners were Allentown, Pa., Chicago and Research Triangle Park, N.C. Other winners included Wichita, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

As a winner, Wichita will get the help of two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA workers, who will serve as liaisons to train and place STEM mentors with students.

WSU led the local coalition. The team includes representatives from the city of Wichita, Wichita public schools, the Wichita Catholic Diocese, area nonprofits and local industries such as Spirit AeroSystems and NetApp.

“STEM and innovation are words that are binding Wichita together towards a common goal,” said Anthony Vizzini, WSU’s vice president for academic affairs, in a news release Tuesday. “The US2020 award strengthens our commitment to the future of our region and nation.”

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