THE BLOG
11/11/2013 08:24 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum

The call was answered. Last month 52 cities self-organized to compete in a nation-wide competition designed to address one of our nation's great challenges. I am honored today to announce the finalists of the US2020 STEM Mentoring City Competition.

What is our challenge? By 2018 there will be a projected three million new job openings in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) fields and we do not have the talent to fill them. There is a projected gap between openings and qualified applicants of almost two million. The U.S. currently ranks 23rd in science performance in international tests, and 31st in math. Of all engineers, only 14% are women and 5% are African American. These realities undermine the economic and social strength of our country.

So what do we do? 52 cities have an answer.

In June of this year, President Clinton formally announced the US2020 STEM Mentoring City Competition at the Clinton Global Initiative. The challenge was for cities across the country to develop plans to dramatically scale their STEM mentoring capacity, with a focus on increasing high-quality mentoring opportunities for girls, low-income youth, and students of color. The winners will share in nearly $1 million in resources from US2020 and solidify a reputation as a leading city in STEM education. On September 18th, the application process opened. I expected that at most we would get two dozen applications. But less than two months later, the breadth and diversity of the applying cities is incredible (see map below). 52 cities each formed coalitions of local government, business, schools and nonprofits, who all came together to design ways to dramatically scale high-quality STEM mentoring.

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When I say mentoring, I am not talking about a traditional "career day" where parents stop by their child's school to talk about their job for a few minutes, or maybe conduct a single cool experiment The mentoring that these cities are scaling is leading scientists teaming up with teachers to co-teach the chemistry of forensics during the regular school day, NASA physicists running semester-long, after-school robotics programs and Google programmers showing urban youth how to design smartphone apps on weekends. These cities know that providing students with multiple, experiential learning opportunities with talented, committed, and well-supported STEM professionals can significantly increase inspiration and achievement in STEM.

Mentoring creates moments of discovery -- those eureka moments when children launching rockets, building robots, or designing their own computer program open their eyes wide to a world of previously unknown possibility. US2020 and these 52 cities are trying to grow the number of these moments of discovery exponentially.

Every application was judged by an independent team of national leaders in STEM education and civic innovation. Thirteen finalists emerged as having the most viable plans to dramatically scale STEM mentoring in their respective cities. The US2020 City Competition finalists are:

• Allentown, PA
• Baton Rouge, LA
• Boston, MA
• Charlotte, NC
• Chicago, IL
• Houston, TX
• Indianapolis, IN
• New York, NY
• Philadelphia, PA
• Research Triangle Park, NC
• San Francisco, CA
• Tulsa, OK
• Wichita, KS

A well-deserved congratulation to them all!

Beginning this month, representatives from these cities will start working with the US2020 team and education and policy leaders to hone their strategies and build upon their coalition. We expect that all 13 cities will proceed with their implementation plans and will receive support from US2020. By February, based on review of more in depth STEM mentoring plans, 3-5 of the cities will be selected as US2020's first official city partners and will receive additional support. These cities will share in $1 million in support from US2020 and national recognition from the White House as they begin to implement their programs in the 2014-15 school year.

In a competition not every application wins but every city that applied to this competition has the opportunity to win. Every applying city formed impressive coalitions that are committed to a shared vision for transforming STEM education in their community. The inspiring plans that came out of every city can continue to be implemented. The country needs them to be implemented. In fact, I actually believe that the real possibility of US2020 lies not in the handful of "winning cities," and "finalist" cities but in the dozens of additional cities that hopefully continue down the path they have started to inspire the next generation of STEM practitioners.

US2020 was formed from a White House call for an "all hands on deck" effort to change the trajectory of STEM education in America, in particular for girls, low-income youth and children of color. This month that call was answered. US2020 is proud to partner with these finalists cities as they turn their answers into realities.

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About US2020
US2020 is a new organization formed through a partnership of education non-profits and corporate leaders in the STEM field. US2020 is being incubated within Citizen Schools, a leading education non-profit and will become a standalone non-profit entity in 2014. US2020's mentoring model was inspired in part by the apprenticeship model of Citizen Schools through which tens of thousands of leading scientists, engineers and technologists are teaching children as part of after-school and expanded learning day programs, dramatically boosting interest in STEM careers and academic proficiency.