Partners for Prosperity
Making STEM Careers, Education Accessible
Eastern Idaho nonprofit creates campaign to education high-school students, parents
Data gathered by the University of Idaho STEM Education Research Initiative shows that high school students often don’t understand the connection between careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and jobs that pay a living wage.
To address this problem, eastern Idaho-based nonprofit Partners for Prosperity created a public awareness campaign about STEM careers, their benefits and the education required to enter them.
“Research shows there are jobs out there, even jobs that go unfilled, but people are not gaining the skills they need,” said Jessica Sotelo, Partners for Prosperity executive director.
The project is one of four launched through the UI-Micron STEM Education Research Initiative’s second round of innovative programs to elevate STEM education by focusing on students, parents and schools.
The programs are part of a five-year project funded by a $1.2 million Micron Foundation gift.
The first phase of the project created a commercial and poster campaign to spread the word about STEM career opportunities in eastern Idaho.
The project’s second phase targeted regional high-school students with the goal of helping them better understand the educational possibilities available to them.
Partners for Prosperity developed a booklet that profiled all the colleges and universities in the region that offered STEM tracks, whether academic or professional/technical programs. The booklet gave clear instructions for where and how to apply to these programs, as well how to apply for financial aid.
They distributed 2,000 booklets in six high schools.
“Overwhelmingly, the high schools loved it. The counselors loved it. Even though we live in a digital age, and a lot of the colleges are going digital, the reality of it is, many people don’t have a computer,” Sotelo says.
“I think the lessons that we learned were we need to look at the process of informing and advising our students about educational opportunities, including professional/technical education as a viable option that is much needed and pays living-wage jobs.”
Sotelo says Partners for Prosperity – which serves 16 counties of eastern Idaho and the Fort Hall Reservation with the mission of reducing poverty by building assets and creating opportunities – is a good fit to help share this kind of information. They hope to find funding to continue sharing the booklet in Idaho schools.
“For us, it doesn’t matter which college or university people go to. Our take on it is we’re unbiased when it comes to where students go. We just want them to go on,” she says.