As the senior Democrat appropriator for various science agencies, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah has cranked up his efforts of supporting the sciences in all levels of education.
Fattah’s whirlwind week began with his view of the Mars rover “Curiosity” landing from Pasadena Mission Control; it also included stops at the Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club and the delivery of a speech to students attending the Greater Philadelphia STEM Summer Science Camp, held at the Navy Yard.
STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — are the four core educational fundaments that leading educators and business owners say need more support in order for America to catch up to the rest of the developed world in manufacturing and engineering.
“Science and innovation are why we are leading the world, and the only way we can stay on top is if we can get many of you to think about being scientists and engineers,” Fattah told the STEM Summer Camp students, many of whom come from impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia. “There are all kinds of jobs you can do, which is why math and science education is so very important.
“We need more of our young people to become enthused about science.”
Fattah — who also sits on the Appropriations Committee along with his duties in the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies — has made it his mission to promote STEM-related initiatives, which include the formation of CORE Scholars, which Fattah designed to help more than 23,000 Philadelphia-area students get to college, and the recently-announced grants to assist low-income families in sending its children to STEM-based afterschool programs.
So far, the CORE program has distributed $28.3 million to students in the program, and Fattah’s other effort, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – GEAR UP – is often hailed and the most successful of its kind, successfully reaching more than 12 million students throughout the nation.
"For all college students today, and particularly for those from capital-challenged public school districts, college preparation is not a hurdle but a necessity,” said CORE Scholars Executive Director Donyale Y. H. Reavis. “We are confident in the CORE model of final-mile scholarships coupled with hands-on writing coach workshops, financial literacy resources, and matched savings account programs for all Philadelphia high school students.
“CORE provides a compelling and successful model geared toward helping our young people thrive at the next level. We eagerly face the challenges ahead, together with the larger Philadelphia college prep community, as we join forces to help lift all Philadelphia students to greater levels of success."
Along with stressing the need for American educators to further embrace STEM, Fattah drew a direct correlation between college graduation and maximum lifetime earning potential.
“When you graduate from college, you will put yourself on a path to earn more than $1.5 million more over your lifetime,” Fattah said during the announcement of CORE results. “Much more important is how much you are going to give back. What you’re doing is not just for yourself, it is important for our country.
“I've been coast to coast and border to border to raise the profile for this much needed program that improves the life chances and nurtures the dreams of students from low income and under-served backgrounds,” Fattah continued. “This is energizing work for me, there is nothing as fulfilling as meeting bright young people and telling them yes, you can compete, yes, you can succeed, and if you work hard you will attain a college education with all its rewards and challenges.”
Fattah believes the Curiosity landing — including the scientific syncopation and high-level skills necessary to accomplish it and the subsequent media attention the landing generated — will help raise the profile of science among American students.
“NASA has always been a model of public and private partnering — our brightest home-grown entrepreneurs and innovators working hand in hand with our government to push back the frontiers of space and science,” Fattah said. “I was honored to witness the spectacular success of landing Curiosity from NASA’s Pasadena Lab, and the excitement there was something to behold. Dropping that appropriately named one-ton mega-laboratory onto rugged terrain is a stunning American achievement, and it’s only the beginning. Now NASA and its partners go to work mining a literal mountain of new data that will provide valuable insights concerning our life on earth.
“Administrator Charles Bolden and the whole dedicated NASA team are to be commended as they tackle this crucial next stage and satisfy our ‘Curiosity.’”