Microsoft plans to increase science education in Chicago

Microsoft has announced a new program called YouthSpark, an initiative to close the achievement gap in Chicago. Partnering with City Year, Year Up, and other non-profit organizations, YouthSpark will implement STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in schools throughout the city. YouthSpark works with specific non-profit organizations, teaching technological skills to further their career choices and pursue tangible employment. 

YouthSpark follows new research from the Brookings Institution which shows that only 32 percent of Chicago-area adults have a bachelor’s degree, and even high-school diplomas among young adults are scarce. At a press conference Friday, a panel of education leaders, discussed necessary changes and plans of execution. Speaking on the panel, Elizabeth Swanson, Mayor’s Deputy for Education City of Chicago, put major focus on early childhood education and implementing STEM programs in schools. “Let’s start STEM at a young age, so by the time ninth grade rolls around, these students are ready,” she said. “It’s interesting to see 4-year-olds learn about engineering, but it’s an exciting thing.”

Preparing high school graduates with intermediary programs, making the most of their economical value, and increasing graduation and success rates through college are a few of the major goals behind this initiative, Donald J. Laackman President of Harold Washington College explained. Laackman gave examples of new advising centers developed for Harold Washington College students, including a legal office. These centers and other improvements city colleges are making provide a more personal outlet for student’s issues.

City Year, a non-profit organization, working with schools to improve student attendance, behavior and course performance, is one of the city partnerships working with YouthSpark. Executive Director, Lisa Morrison Butler said from her experience, non-profit organizations need to work together to achieve these goals and solve these issues. With philanthropic partnerships and the execution of new curriculum and STEM programs within city schools, YouthSpark hopes to improve the success rate of Chicago youth.

Visit the YouthSpark site for more information.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)