Changing the Game
A few years ago, Kathleen Schofield worked as a district administrator for Clay County Florida, leading the district in a push to weave STEM and computer science classes into the curriculum. She saw a way to make a difference in the lives of children through introducing a new way to learn that not only encouraged interest and curiosity, but also provided them with the opportunity to explore career paths that were not typically known.
Clay County is a district with a student body made up of children from minority working class families. Few of these children have parents working in tech fields and even fewer have access to technology at home. Kathleen firmly believed in the importance of STEM programs in K-12 schools, understanding that the future job market is one made up of technical computer and science skills, and that if she could find a way to increase access and teach young people to understand technology she would be able to encourage equity, growth, and discovery.
Fast forward nine years and add a few major partnerships, and Kathleen heads a small team of administrators and tech professionals working to close the digital divide, expand STEM programs, and guide children on their path to success. This organization is called STEM2Hub and they are changing the game.
Kathleen’s Journey to STEM2Hub
In 2015, when STEM2Hub was created, Gary Chartrand, Founder and Executive Chair at Acosta Sales & Marketing led the STEM2Hub board around neighboring areas of NorthEast Florida looking to meet with administrators working in STEM. Their goal was to grow their board and get a closer look at the state of STEM education. During this time, they visited Clay County and Gary met Kathleen, a standout administrator passionate about creating a robust STEM program in her district and districts beyond.
She began going to board meetings and coordinating regularly with the STEM2Hub team. When Code.org joined forces with STEM2Hub, things started to accelerate and the possibilities seemed endless. Together, Clay County administrators, STEM2Hub, and Code.org put on the first ever “Hour of Code,” where all students in the district were encouraged to participate in an hour-long coding challenge.
When Gary asked Kathleen if she would help scale STEM2Hub beyond Clay County, she felt as though it was her golden opportunity, one that would allow her to truly make a difference in the lives of children. She says,
“I haven’t looked back. I have been able to really change the lives of kids I’ll never know and it’s profound for me. This opportunity to work for STEM2Hub has empowered me to really change systems. It’s been the greatest honor of my life to be able to do this work.”
Expanding the STEM Ecosystem
In 2018, Kathleen met Karen Young, the CEO of Woz ED. She was immediately drawn to Karen’s vision because it starts with the now as opposed to looking immediately to the future. She takes abstract concepts within the computer science world like AI, animation, robotics, and coding and brings it down to kindergarten level. It is daring, exploratory, and holistic. Her approach incorporates all of the elements of STEM that are integral to its nature: testing, experimentation, focus, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.
From this meeting, a beautiful partnership between STEM2Hub and Woz ED was formed. The two organizations, along with a plethora of others, have worked together to create a budding ecosystem of STEM Education in the NorthEast Florida Region. They have created a system that showcases what is possible, not only for Florida school districts, but for districts across the country.
Here are some of STEM2Hub’s other key partnerships:
- Microsoft TEALS
- Boys and Girls Club
- Girl Scouts of America
- Police Athletic League
Progress. Progress. Progress.
STEM2Hub has had incredible success in making computer science and technology accessible to students of all backgrounds and in enabling them to progress in their chosen fields. They have shown proven progress in areas such as teacher training, college attendance, and student participation.
In the last few years…
- The number of teachers in NorthEast Florida teaching computer science and technology classes increased by 80%.
- The number of computer science workshops available went from 27 to 84.
- The number of schools which adopted STEM programs increased by 43%.
- There were about 47,500 elementary school students enrolled in computer science programs across the region.
These are only some of the compelling statistics on how far STEM2Hub has come and proof of how far they will go.
At the top of Kathleen’s “why” list lies equity. In her view, there are two types of equity. There is the version that is all too common, which claims that equity is just a matter of leveling the playing field, and then there is the practical notion of equity, which Kathleen knows as, “If you don’t have every voice at the table, it’s not going to work for everyone.”
In order to reach a functioning level of equity, one where everyone has equal access to the tools they need to succeed, every group of people must be represented at the highest level. There has to be women leaders, there has to be minority leaders, there must be leaders from rural communities and urban communities alike. It is clear that STEM2Hub has these voices present in their process of creating a systems based approach to equitable learning environments.
The numbers don’t lie. In this past school year, the growth of the student body in female and non-white categories skyrocketed. Female student enrollment in computer science courses exceeded male student enrollment by 65% and non-white student enrollment exceeded white student enrollment by 75%.
A Bright Future
So, what’s next for STEM2Hub? Judging by the progress we’ve seen, the possibilities are infinite.
One major action that is currently underway is the implementation of computer science programs in 150 Boys and Girls Clubs across Florida. After school programs featuring animation, coding, AI, 3D printing, and robotics will be available in each of these locations.
When looking further into the future, Kathleen envisions STEM education as a way to systematically lift families out of poverty. Empowering young people to aim high and discover a future in which they succeed in STEM fields, make a significant income, and lift their families up is the ultimate goal. Making STEM education accessible in the same capacity across urban and rural communities through partnership, collaboration, and creativity is the “how”.
This is possible. When talking with Kathleen, she ended by saying,
“In just 10 years we have truly made education look different. We are steadily moving toward the day where we are able to say that every child has access.”
Ten years is not that long. Just imagine how much more there is to accomplish. The educational system in this country has remained stagnant for so long. STEM2Hub and thier many partners in STEM believe in a style of education that encourages growth, requires a deep understanding of current technologies, and truly prepares children for the future.