AT&T funds STEM education programs

A Lego welcome sign sits in the doorway of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education on Sept. 11 in the EHS Building.

AT&T donated $12,000 to Central Michigan University's Center for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education program last month.

The donation will allow the STEM Education Mentor program to engage with more area high school students who are interested in becoming educators. The program provides hands-on experience to teacher education students at CMU through work with local K-12 students.

"The STEM Education Mentor program will create a mentor pipeline of hands-on learning," said Megan Moreno, director of development at the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS). 

Through outreach programs, workshops and career-building activities, teacher education students (STEM Ed Scholars) work hands-on with local K-12 students. The scholars are trained by Center for Excellence in STEM Education staff to mentor high school students. 

STEM Ed Scholars receive a $1,000 scholarship for tuition, as well as paid attendance at a national science, math or STEM conference. But for most of these scholars, the hands-on experience is the main benefit of the program.

Mount Pleasant junior Sarah Lapp said her experience as a STEM Ed Scholar has been rewarding for her major, Secondary Education in Math. 

"In the education program, we don't always have time to be out in schools," she said. "This program gives me the opportunity to learn things like classroom management and resolving conflicts with students."

Housed in the "Maker Space" on the first floor of CEHS, the scholars engage K-12 students in workshops and problem-solving activities. They also go on field trips to the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum on Remus Road, where they do coding and chemistry-related activities.

"Overall it's an amazing program," Lapp said. "(It's) one of my favorite things I've done at CMU."

The $12,000 donation came from AT&T's Aspire program, which aims to equip students to lead the digital economy by investing in innovative education organizations, according to its website

"The contribution helps get kids into STEM-related areas while helping create new teachers, so it's kind of a win-win for our goal of furthering education," said Kris Young, AT&T Michigan director of external affairs, at the formal check presentation.

In 2015, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation provided a $5 million grant for the Center for Excellence in STEM Education. That grant has funded teacher professional development, as well as youth camps and workshops, Moreno said.

While the Dow Foundation grant was geared specifically for middle school students, the AT&T donation will allow the STEM Education program to work with area high school students, said Julie Cunningham, director of the Center for Excellence in STEM education. The money will cover mileage costs for students, as well as conference attendance for high school students and STEM Ed Scholars. 

A formal check presentation took place at the "Maker Space" in the College of Education and Human Services on Aug. 21. CMU staff were joined by State Representative Roger Hauck, Former State Representative Rick Outman, Former CMU Interim President Dr. Michael Gealt and three STEM Ed scholars from the STEM Mentorship program, reported the Morning Sun