United Way’s STEM Leadership Breakfast raises over $200,000 for innovative BoSTEM public-private partnership
BOSTON — Close to 300 business leaders representing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industries came together today at United Way’s Annual STEM Leadership Breakfast to raise funds and recruit volunteers for BoSTEM, a public-private partnership that aims to provide all Boston public middle school students with a STEM learning experience by 2022. The partnership is led by the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and Boston After School & Beyond.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh presented the inaugural Corporate STEM Leader of the Year Award to Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, for the company’s outstanding commitment to STEM education and to inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders. “As a business leader, Vertex clearly stands out,” Walsh said this morning. Anaya Benders, an eighth-grader at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston received the Student STEM Leader of the Year award for her achievements through the programs at Latino STEM Alliance
Vertex was honored for the company’s significant commitments to STEM and STEAM education initiatives particularly for underserved students. Their partnerships include the Thomas M. Menino Learning Lab, a dedicated 3,000 square foot classroom and laboratory space in Vertex’s Fan Pier headquarters that is providing hands-on STEM opportunities to local students. The Vertex Science Fair Mentorship program provides BPS high school students with an opportunity to work with Vertex employees on independent science and engineering research projects in preparation for school and district-wide science fairs. And the Vertex Science Leaders Scholarship provides four-year, full-ride scholarships to pursue an education in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) at any University of Massachusetts campus.
“There is a war for talent every day,” said Leiden, as he accepted the award. “To win that war, we have to educate our young people. Education is the single most important and powerful force we have to address social and economic issues.”
“Not all students have equal access to the hands-on learning that gives students the chance to apply math and science skills in exciting, real world contexts,” said Michael K. Durkin, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Today we celebrate Vertex Pharmaceuticals and all of the educators, corporate partners, volunteers, government partners, and community-based organizations who come together through BoSTEM to prepare all of today’s middle school students in Boston for the workforce opportunities of tomorrow.” Companies also recognized today for their commitment to STEM education included Salesforce and Gilbane Building Company.
The event also featured a panel moderated by Boston Business Journal Publisher Carolyn Jones about the challenges and opportunities facing STEM industries in the coming years. The panel featured Jessica Gelman of Kraft Analytics Group, Paul Sagan, of General Catalyst Partners and Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Corey Thomas of Rapid 7. Rahn Dorsey, Chief of Education for the City of Boston served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.
Sponsors of the event included Vertex, Blue Cross Blue Shield, IBM-Resilient Systems, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Atlantic Broadband, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Gilbane & Co., Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Mass Eye and Ear, New England Baptist Hospital, Rapid7, Digital Guardian, Mintz Levin, and Security Innovation.
The goals of United Way’s BoSTEM initiative include reaching 10,000 grade 6-8 students over the next five years; increasing STEM interest and achievement; improving social and emotional competency and well-being; aligning curriculum and instruction across school and out-of-school time; and providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities with STEM industry professionals. Current BoSTEM program providers include: Breakthrough Greater Boston, Citizen Schools, CitySprouts, Community Boat Building, Latino STEM Alliance, Massachusetts General Hospital, Sociedad Latina, and Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center.