Wallingford-based CT STEM Academy receives $100k grant to expand programming

Wallingford-based CT STEM Academy receives $100k grant to expand programming

WALLINGFORD — The CT STEM Academy has received a $100,000 grant from AT&T and the NEA Foundation to expand its after-school programs.

The money will allow the academy to provide more after-school and evening programs for students and families in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. The CT STEM Academy opened in Wallingford in 2012, but has since expanded to offer free and low cost programs in Meriden and 13 other surrounding towns.

“This funding will help us to realize the potential of our program — to expand offerings and beef up our material resources,” said STEM program director Christopher Stone, a fifth-grade teacher at Pond Hill Elementary School.

AT&T contributed the money to the NEA Foundation as part of a flagship education initiative, AT&T Aspire. The foundation selected CT STEM Academy as one of three educator-led, district-wide STEM initiatives nationally the foundation is helping to fund this year.

In past years, the NEA Foundation has given other grants to CT STEM Academy totaling $20,000 that “helped expand our program and build our base,” Stone said.

The $100,000 grant was announced at an event Friday afternoon at the Spanish Community of Wallingford’s building on Washington Street, where CT STEM Academy is housed.

Stone said receiving the grant was “truly a momentous occasion” for CT STEM.

The academy originated as the “Young Astronaut Club of Wallingford” in 2012 with a small innovation grant from NASA. The astronaut club quickly broadened into today’s academy, which offers a variety of programs.

“There’s a need for STEM programming for school age children, so that’s our main focus,” Stone said. “We want to address the need. We want to make sure students and their families are engaging in sciences, technology, engineering and math.”

“What Chris realized is that he could reach more kids outside of school,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “And he’s grown this program dramatically. There’s something for every kid.”

CT STEM Academy takes a lot of pride in working with all populations of students, Stone said, including underrepresented populations that may not otherwise get to participate in STEM programming.

Over 15,000 students have participated in CT STEM Academy since it was founded in 2012.

Students at the Friday event demonstrated what they have learned at the academy.

“Our vision is that science is for all, STEM is for all,” Stone said. “You don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate STEM.”

John Erma, president of AT&T Connecticut, said the company sees a need to get students more involved in STEM.

“By 2020, there is likely to be a shortage of approximately 40 million high-skilled workers,” Erma said. “We know we will see a return that will benefit all of us.”

Twitter: @MatthewZabierek


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