Why Does This Funder Want to Inspire Military Families to Pursue STEM Education?

Military kids move an average of six to nine times before graduating high school, affecting their continuity of education and making it tough to maintain friendships. Veterans enrolling in college after military service also face unique challenges as they struggle to adapt to civilian life and cope with isolation in a new environment. So if your goal is to improve education for military families and veterans, where do you start?

Raytheon Company is a defense contractor and aerospace company, so it's not surprising that the engineering giant focuses its corporate social responsibility efforts on promoting STEM development. Last year, Raytheon announced a five-year, $10 million grant to fund education initiatives for military members and their families through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club of America and Student Veterans of America. These initiatives come as Raytheon celebrates the 10th anniversary of its MathMovesU program, in which it invested over $125 million to encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

Boys and Girls Club of America serves half a million U.S. children in military communities in 14 countries. Half of the grant from Raytheon funds 25 Centers of Innovation, the first of which opened in December 2015 at the Aberdeen Boys and Girls Club in a military community in Harford County, Maryland. The centers will be outfitted with technology such as 3-D printers, high-definition video conferencing, whiteboards on the walls and in tables, and staffed with mentors to get kids excited about STEM careers. Ideally, the centers will cultivate the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are needed to produce a robust workforce.

"We're a company of engineers, so supporting STEM education has been a natural connection for Raytheon's philanthropic efforts," Pamela Erickson, vice president of corporate affairs, told Inside Philanthropy. "Our employees care deeply about this, and our efforts here are laying the groundwork for the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists."

The other half of Raytheon’s $10 million commitment will double Student Veterans of America (SVA) presence on college campuses from the 1,300 worldwide chapters that currently exist. SVA helps veterans succeed in higher education and transition into civilian careers with a peer-support network. Raytheon wants to develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and mentorship programs for student veterans through SVA.

President Obama is expected to give a shout out to the importance of STEM education in his final State of the Union Address on January 12, and First Lady Michelle Obama has invited two STEM advocates to sit with her during the speech. With the national spotlight on STEM, we expect to see more funding in this field emerge in 2016.