A $1 million Battelle donation aims to improve STEM education to better prepare the next generation of scientists in the greater Tri-City area.
The grant will help launch a regional STEM Nexus that will develop and fund experiential learning programs for underrepresented, underserved students in rural communities.
A science, technology, engineering and math-based education is critical for the future workforce, officials said during a Zoom meeting July 15, held as part of Battelle’s ongoing observation of its 90th anniversary. The Ohio-based company manages Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S Department of Energy.
The state has an unprecedented percentage of jobs requiring postsecondary credentials and, increasingly, STEM proficiency at some level. But only 40% of Washington’s high school students earn such a credential by the age of 26, according to Battelle. The Nexus wants to increase this to 70% by 2030.
“Our nation faces a continuing challenge to interest our youth in science, technology, engineering and math careers that are critical to our future,” said Steven Ashby, Battelle senior vice president and PNNL director. “For decades, Battelle and PNNL have provided financial support, community leadership and mentors for STEM education efforts that have had an enduring impact. This gift will continue this tradition by focusing on the development and expansion of transformative STEM education experiences in the region, especially for historically underrepresented and underserved populations.”
Officials outlined a series of steps needed to get there including creating teams of educators, regional community partners and STEM professionals to co-create curriculum and experiences for students, and equipping them with resources, personalized education experiences and role models.
“We are proud of our long-standing presence in Richland and the Tri-City area, and even more proud of the global impact that we have on the health and safety of the world. We hope this gift contributes to future, fantastic scientific advances,” said Lou Von Thaer, Battelle’s chief executive officer and president.
During its run of managing PNNL, Battelle has logged more than $28 million in philanthropic investments and more than 335,000 in staff volunteer hours and supported 125 community organizations.
Those investments include a $1.5 million contribution to create Delta High School, the Tri-Cities’ first STEM school, and more than $2 million to fund the Reach Museum in Richland. Battelle also helped found the Washington State STEM Education Foundation.
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