STEAM in the South: A Look at the Blank Family Foundation’s Pipeline Project

The state of Georgia ranks in the bottom quartile of graduates with two-year and four-year STEM degrees, and only about 15 percent of Georgia graduates took a math or science AP exam. Another statistic that exemplifies the broken STEAM pipeline is broken here is that “of the 32,420 African-American public school students receiving a diploma in Georgia in 2014, only 35 of the students scored 3 or higher on the AP computer science exam.”

It’s easy to get discouraged by how much STEAM education is struggling in the American South, but the good news is that job opportunities are growing for students who can get the training they need to compete with transplant applicants. As a city, Atlanta is growing tremendously in terms of jobs and the tech sector. If local schools here can’t train their own students to be qualified for them, they’ll get snatched right up by new graduates moving down from cities all over the U.S.

Cue the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Pipeline Project.

This is a project that aims to boost STEAM subject proficiency in low-income pre-K through grade 12 students in Atlanta and throughout DeKalb County and Fulton County. The project is all about hands-on learning and disrupting the status quo. Through classroom time, after-school programs, and summer learning, the Blank Family Foundation funds organizations that give underprivileged local kids access to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math programs.

To do so, the funder recently awarded $710,000 in grants to six organizations that will serve more than 32,000 children. To make those dollars go even further, the funder partnered with to match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $75,000 for the 2016-2017 school year. Other new grantees are Georgia Tech CEISMC, TechSquare Labs, Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative, Netcentric Campaigns, and Georgia State University’s Alonzo Center for Urban Educational Excellence. The total amount of these latest grants was $460,000.

“By investing in ideas that increase the supply of rigorous STEAM programs and heighten demand among students and parents, The Pipeline Project is helping communities produce tomorrow’s talent today,” said Ayana Gabriel, who leads the Blank Family Foundation’s education programs.

It’s unclear whether Pipeline Project grants will continue after this school year though. The funder committed to making grant awards just last year and this year so far. Follow #steampipeline on Twitter to keep up with this program and what it’s doing around town. And read through the official guidelines if you’re in Atlanta and could make use of one of these Blank Pipeline grants.

This foundation was built upon the fortune of Home Depot, for which Arthur M. Blank co-founded. Through a combination of foundation and personal family giving, Blank has contributed more than $300 million to charitable causes. Foundation funding programs are early childhood development, education, green space, and the arts.

Regardless of whether Pipeline Project grants continue or not, other education opportunities exist. Better Beginnings is the Blank initiative dedicated to early childhood education in Atlanta, and Pathways to Success is the initiative category that the Pipeline Project falls under. Overall, this is an education funder that supports in-school and out-of-school learning, mentoring, and guidance for post-secondary training.