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Teams Nourish STEM Teachers With Scholarships and Grants

October 15, 2011
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Connections
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The AFCEA Educational Foundation has launched a program to cultivate the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching profession. The goal is to help the nation meet its demand for more scientists, mathematicians, computer scientists and others with technical expertise. By collaborating with AFCEA chapters, thousands of dollars are now available for undergraduate and graduate students studying to be teachers of STEM subjects as well as current STEM teachers working toward advance degrees and teaching certifications. The scholarships and grants nurture teaching professionals who are dedicated to fostering students who are interested in pursuing careers that involve these disciplines.

The Team AFCEA Partners for STEM Teachers program comprises $5,000 scholarships plus three annual Science Teaching Tools (STT) grants of $1,000 to the awardees. The scholarships are available at the undergraduate level to sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as awarded to graduate and credential/licensure students. Students compete only within their own levels.

The Educational Foundation will match the first 50 AFCEA chapter $5,000 STEM Teacher Scholarships together with three STT grants, which effectively doubles the number of awardees. “Every chapter that participates in this project is involved from the application point through the award ceremony,” Fred Rainbow, vice president and executive director, AFCEA Educational Foundation, states.

The foundation is not going it alone in this endeavor. According to Rainbow, this program is an AFCEA team effort. Together, AFCEA International, the Educational Foundation, individual AFCEA chapters and corporations are sharing both time and treasure to ensure its success.

Students use the initial $5,000 to help finance their educational preparation to teach STEM courses. Once in the classroom, the three $1,000 annual STT grants supplement their budgets for the equipment and supplies they need to carry out their jobs effectively. Prior to receiving the grants, recipients must have completed their degree programs and secured a STEM teaching position in a U.S. middle or high school.

Working with the AFCEA IT department, the foundation staff put into place a consistent process for judging scholarship applications and student transcripts with chapter representatives. The foundation collects and posts all the data on a shared website. The chapters judge the applications from candidates in their area. The foundation tallies the results of the judging through an online tool, and the chapters present the scholarships. 

"We [the Educational Foundation] provide the structure and support, but we operate together with the AFCEA chapters, AFCEA International and corporate sponsors," Rainbow emphasizes. "As a result, not only are these new teachers provided with the funding they need to get their degrees in STEM subjects, but they also can receive volunteer support in their classrooms from chapter members and the corporate community that have experience in STEM fields."

Norma Corrales, senior director, scholarships, awards and grants programs, AFCEA Educational Foundation, relates that five AFCEA chapters took part in the Team AFCEA Partners for STEM Teachers pilot program in fiscal year 2011. “A total of 56 scholarships of $5,000 were presented to future STEM teachers, and 15 fiscal year 2010 winners/graduates received the STT grants of $1,000,” she adds.

Currently, Booz Allen Hamilton, Terremark Worldwide Incorporated and AFCEA International are signature sponsors of this project. The Educational Foundation invites additional corporations to join this effort to increase the number of STEM teachers in the nation’s classrooms. To participate, corporate representatives should contact Fred Rainbow at (703) 631-6141. AFCEA chapters interested in more information about the program should contact Norma Corrales at (703) 631-6149 or scholarship@afcea.org.