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The Imperative of Improving Equity in Education Through Corporate Support

By: Marla Wilson, Executive Director, STEM Careers Coalition of Discovery Education 

– We are all too familiar with the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our everyday life. Looking specifically at education, we know that since the beginning of the pandemic, over 90% of K-12 students transitioned to remote learning, and many remain in some type of hybrid model. While school districts and communities did their best to adapt in this new educational environment, it is clear we need to continue to improve our collective efforts to maintain the continuity of learning for all students.

Among those disproportionately impacted by the move to remote learning are the students of color and students from low-income families. There are currently 11.9 million children living in poverty in the United States, 75% of whom are people of color. Food insecurity, a lack of internet connectivity, and a deficit of learning devices are just of few of the challenges low-income students may face. While these complex dynamics are not new, they are exposed during a global crisis. COVID-19 shines a bright light on the inequities that are prevalent in society, including in education.

These challenges must be faced together with multiple stakeholders aligning on key pathways to address the inequities and disparities we face. If done right, education can serve as a point of unity and awareness raising, a pivot point for society.

One of the forces behind this growing sense of unity, and urgency, is the private sector. Progress requires us to work together. There is an opportunity for the corporate and philanthropic leaders to dig deeper to redesign and re-align strategies for impact. As companies move to measure their success by global commitments to communities, placing education at the forefront of their plans is not something that is nice to do, it’s an imperative

Corporations and community organizations are coming together to help all under-represented communities gain access to engaging educational experiences that brings the real world into the classroom. As an example, in 2019, Discovery Education launched the STEM Careers Coalition in partnership with some of the world’s biggest brands and organizations. The goal has always been to harness the power of the collective to elevate diversity in STEM. However, now with the hill we need to climb in education, the STEM Careers Coalition becomes an essential ingredient in addressing inequities head on. The STEM Careers Coalition has three clear goals:

  1. To empower educators to teach STEM effectively in the classroom,
  2. To foster and promote equity and access to quality STEM education, and
  3. To build the next generation of solution seekers with intentional focus on racial and gender equity.

Industry leaders – such as Procter and Gamble (P&G), Microsoft, the Caterpillar Foundation, Boeing, the American Petroleum Institute (API), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and Chevron –demonstrate the power of supporting education to help ensure that zip codes do not define students’ destinies. Each member of the Coalition believes that all students should have the opportunities and resources to reach their fullest potential as they explore the wide world of STEM careers and see how STEM fits into their futures.

The STEM Careers Coalition helps connect students to STEM futures through a diverse array of relevant and standards-aligned content, all available at no-cost on STEMCareersCoalition.com. The resources are designed by curriculum experts to be integrated into educator’s lesson plans with ease wherever learning is taking place, or to be picked up anytime, grab & go style. Additionally, Coalition members partner with school districts to provide access to critical STEM learning platforms and professional development for under-resourced schools across the United States. Taken together, the private sector funds unique and essential content that helps close access and funding gaps in education. This double-pronged approach creates, and sustains, a culture of STEM education that we know students need and deserve.

COVID-19 illuminates the fact that schools and administrators need support in innovating, tackling disparities, and reimaging education. The ongoing efforts by Corporate America to create a more diverse, prepared, and equitable student body ready to take their place as the leaders of tomorrow is an exciting new development with the potential to impact millions of students the country. Enabling the world’s best corporate partners to lift our students into tomorrow is a significant step in the right direction, but it is only a step and we have a long walk ahead of us. To make possibility a reality, corporations must continue stepping up for their communities. If you are interested in learning more about the work of or are interested in joining the STEM Careers Coalition, please contact us.

 

Marla Wilson

Marla Wilson, Executive Director, STEM Careers Coalition of Discovery Education 

Marla Wilson is the Executive Director of STEM Careers Coalition from Discovery Education. In this role, Wilson unites the business community to grow the STEM pipeline by preparing 10 million students for the future of work with no cost standards-aligned resources. Previously, Wilson worked as the Senior Director of the ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign for the American Heart Association and Executive Director for the Miami March of Dimes. Originally from Las Vegas, NV, Wilson holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma where she studied broadcast and print journalism. Having been raised by a single father, who dedicated his life to teach her the importance of diversity in culture, experience, and travel, she soon became compelled to do the same. Today, Wilson strives to make a difference in the lives of children and families globally. Whether consulting with philanthropists on how to make a difference or being the driving force of change through 1 Percent Circle, the exclusive consulting group she founded to match celebrity with mission related initiatives, Wilson commits herself to the advancement of those in need. Wilson is also the proud mother of twins, son Malik and daughter Mijani.

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