The STEM program at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center got a boost Thursday, thanks to a $20,000 donation from two of America’s largest corporations.
Educators and community leaders attended a ceremony announcing the enhancement of the center’s STEM program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The money came from BP America and Bank of America, which donated $10,000 each.
“We’re grateful that (these companies) stepped up to the plate to enhance our STEM program,” said Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who was on hand for a check presentation. “The support from BP and Bank of America allows us to engage volunteers, educators and staff so that we can continue to emphasize the importance of STEM education to our students while providing them with the tools they need to become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.”
The STEM program will be an enhancement of a program already in place at the center, 101 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Circle.
Joyner-Kersee is a six-time Olympic medal winner in the women’s heptathaon and long jump and a native of East St. Louis.
She said BP officials have given the center its’ STEM curriculum and is going to train staff on using it. The STEM program is designed as an after-school and summer initiative for young people in grades 3-12.
“The students will be exposed to the various STEM careers and they will be taught how to develop their problem-solving skills by using a scientific approach,” Joyner-Kersee said.
Funding from BP and Bank of America will allow the JJK Foundation to update its computers and software and to bring in educational consultants. “The curriculum will include introductions to geology, plant science, space, bio-science, chemical engineering, web design, app creation, robotics, math tricks and physics,” she said.
Several young people were on hand to demonstrate what they built from the knowledge they have acquired so far. Jazmine Haines, 16, a sophomore at East St. Louis, said the STEM program at JJK “is a lot of fun.”
“I am happy that people made donations to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center for us to have this exposure to STEM. We made Jitterbugs with batteries, wires and CDs. To build it and make it move. it was so much fun. I already liked science. Now, I like it even more,” she said.
Roy Greenwood, 16, also a sophomore at East St. Louis, said he is excited that the program will now be available through the summer months.
“I am looking forward to exploring all that is available to us and later possibly having a career in one of the fields,” Greenwood said.
After the event, Joyner-Kersee said she was born and raised in East st. Louis and it is in her heart to give back to her community as much as she can. “The goal for us at the JJK Foundation is to instill in the youth who live in the greater East St. Louis area the dream, the drive and the determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership.”
Bob Miner, director of communications and external affairs for BP, said “BP is proud to be an official partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee as we support Team USA on the road to the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. As part of our support, we are excited to be here with the great Olympian, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. As impressive as her achievements have been in sports, the work she and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation are doing here in this community may be even more inspirational.”
Michelle Tucker, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said, “Bank of America is proud to support the efforts of the JJK Foundation focused on STEM. The program is a great investment in our youth and future workforce helping to equip them for 21st century opportunities.