SMASH STEM Program launched in Illinois

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 LT. GOVERNOR Juliana Stratton and Senator Kimberly Lightford announced the launch of SMASH Illinois during a press conference last week. Left to Right: Eli Kennedy (SMASH), Dr. Eric Whitaker (CPASS Foundation), Freada Kapor Klein (SMASH/Kapor Capital), Mitch Kapor (Kapor Capital), Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, Meera Komarrauju (SIU Carbondale), Senator Kimberly Lightford, Ashleigh Richelle (SMASH), Peter Kilpatrick (Illinois Tech), and Stephen Martin (CPASS Foundation). (Photo by Birk Creative)

First State-wide Program Model for Free World-Class STEM Program for Students from Underrepresented Communities

SMASH, the signature STEM education program of the Kapor Center, announces SMASH Illinois, its first statewide initiative program partnership with Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), Southern Illinois University (SIUC) Carbondale, and the Creating Pathways and Access for Student Success (CPASS) Foundation.

The inaugural group of students accepted into SMASH Illinois will live for five weeks during the summer of 2019 on the Illinois Tech and SIU Carbondale campuses and will all initially come from the greater Chicago area, Carbondale, IL, and the greater East St. Louis, IL area.

“The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has worked tirelessly to promote and ensure an equal education for all Illinois students of color through our legislative efforts to restore funding for STEM initiatives like the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program administered by the CPASS Foundation because we know a great education can be the solution to many disparities in opportunities for our communities,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford. “We want our students to be competitive participants in the STEM labor force, especially in the rising healthcare tech field, and I’m excited to be a part of the launch of SMASH Illinois, a wonderful new state-wide STEM initiative, and continuing the momentum and investment to increase the number of underrepresented students of color in STEM fields and careers.”

The SMASH Illinois program will focus on training scholars with core STEM skills at the intersection of technology, innovation and equity in health to empower students from underrepresented communities to pursue and persist in the STEM fields and excel in the rising “HealthTech” industry.

SMASH’s flagship program, SMASH Academy, is a three-year, free-of-cost, residential college preparatory program targeting high school students from traditionally underrepresented communities interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) careers. Beginning the summer after 9th grade, SMASH scholars take rigorous science, tech and math classes that will supplement their learning during the academic year.

“Our community of students, staff, and scholars here at Illinois Tech is very excited to be joining SMASH Illinois,” said Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, Provost and SVP of Academic Affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology.  “This visionary program has demonstrated that it is possible to develop effective programs to motivate and ready high school students from all backgrounds to excel in STEM in college.  At Illinois Tech, we are committed to ensuring access and success for all students in all of our academic programs.”

“SIU Carbondale is delighted to partner with so many outstanding organizations in providing a place for young people to learn more about the amazing career possibilities in STEM fields,” said Dr. Meera Komarraju, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “SIU has a long and rich history of providing educational opportunities to underrepresented students and we have an exceptional base of STEM related programs and faculty to engage these young minds.  We are grateful to be a part of the SMASH Academy and I am confident our program will make a difference in preparing future leaders in science and technology.”

US News and World Report has called SMASH “perhaps the most ambitious program to encourage African American and Latino students in STEM fields.” For over 15 years, SMASH has provided hundreds of students with access to rigorous STEM coursework and a top-level support network of mentors, professionals and peers working to close the achievement gap. The launch of SMASH Illinois is in line with Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein’s $40 million investment pledge that includes expanding SMASH programming across the nation.

“Health disparities between people of color and caucasians are well-documented. Closing this gap will come from directly addressing biases and changing who gets inspired to develop the next generation of health care tech tools,” said Freada Kapor Klein, Founder of SMASH and Partner at Kapor Capital. “We always talk about the importance of lived experience in solving real problems. By bringing SMASH to Illinois, we can further bridge the STEM diversity gap, inspire true innovation and make the healthcare IT industry more equitable.”

“SMASH helps unlock untapped talent through a rigorous and culturally responsive education that will strengthen students’ STEM skills, equip them with a network and expose them to 21st century careers,” said Eli Kennedy, CEO of SMASH. “By 2020, 1.4M STEM jobs will go unfilled in America. With the right STEM tools, resources and networks, we can empower young people to fill these roles and become the future health leaders and change agents in their communities.”

SMASH’s comprehensive and research-driven approach boasts significant results. A longitudinal analysis of SMASH alumni data reveal the following:

100% of SMASH Academy alumni graduate from high school

91% of SMASH Academy Alumni graduate college within 5 years

SMASH Academy Alumni graduate with a STEM degree 2x higher than the national average.

The return on initial investment in lifetime earnings is 96x for each SMASH alumni who earns a STEM degree, with each student projected to earn $3.6M in their lifetime

“CPASS Foundation is excited about the announcement of this preeminent state-wide STEM program for Illinois high school students of color and the phenomenal group of partners who have joined together with us to invest in the future of our children,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Board Chair. “STEM fields will be key drivers of the global economy for decades to come, and it’s urgent that we start STEM education early and make it accessible to all Illinois communities. SMASH Illinois will join other educational initiatives that will prioritize the inclusion of often forgotten, minority communities in STEM fields and careers and will foster the talent of the future for our communities, state, and country.”

The deadline for SMASH Illinois applications is March 1, 2019. Eligibility requirements can be found at www.cpassfoundation.org/smash/.

For partnership opportunities and questions, contact Site Director Tracie Screven at tracie@smash.org.

 

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