Documentary Inspires STEM Initiative to “Let Everyone Dream”

The documentary Underwater Dreams follows the story of a group of students, the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants, who build an underwater robot using Home Depot parts and go on to challenge an MIT team in a robotics competition. This inspiring story resonated with a coalition of funders, who would like to bring those dreams above water.

During the recent White House Science Fair, President Obama announced a pair of new philanthropic commitments, including the “Let Everyone Dream” campaign, a $90 million initiative aimed at getting more underrepresented students interested in STEM. A coalition of funders, including corporate sponsors and institutions of higher education, supports the Let Everyone Dream campaign, which includes a variety of commitments. These commitments include a youth- and family-focused media campaign sponsored by Mexican media giant Televisa, which will invest $4 million in a campaign to showcase Latinas in STEM. In the U.S., Televisa content airs on Spanish language network Univision.

The U.S. network EPIX will lend further media support, committing $4 million to support distribution of the documentary Underwater Dreams to students and families. The Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers will organize 150 screenings of the film for students across the country.

But “Let Everyone Dream” is not solely a media-focused initiative. It also emphasizes programs aimed at stimulating interest in STEM among historically underrepresented students. The 3M corporation will commit $15 million to STEM programs for women and ethnic minorities, while the Motorola Solutions Foundation will put $4 million into STEM programs for underrepresented students.

A key factor in ensuring that more African Americans, Hispanics, women, and other underrepresented groups pursue STEM education and careers is to increase college access among these groups. That’s where institutions of higher education supporting Let Everyone Dream come in. City University of New York announced a $10 million commitment to support STEM career readiness programs and internship opportunities for first-generation college students. To boost access to financial aid among underrepresented populations, MIT plans to increase financial aid by $8.4 million. Meanwhile, Wellesley College in Massachusetts plans to commit $20 million to support women in STEM from pre-college to graduate school.