Boeing gives private grant to education

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Andy Owens
May 12, 2011

The Boeing Co. has given The Education Foundation its largest private grant to date to help bridge the gap between schools and the businesses that rely on engineering and math skills.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh flew in to Charleston today to unveil the details of a grant to the staff of Boeing South Carolina. The $129,000 gift, which has been in place for several months, is designed to help the development of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills in schools around the Lowcountry.

Earlier today, Albaugh announced a partnership with SCE&G, which plans to work with Boeing to cover the company’s 787 Dreamliner final assembly plant with solar panels. The plant is under construction near Charleston International Airport in North Charleston.

The grant administered through The Education Foundation, which is an initiative of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, has been in the works since last year, when Boeing funded the organization’s proposal. Officials kept the grant under wraps until today.

The Education Foundation has received other public grants in the 16 years that it has been operating, but the Boeing grant represents the foundation’s largest private grant.

“We framed a proposal around professional development for teachers,” said Allen Wutzdorff, foundation executive director.

The grant allows for externships for 60 educators to explore what businesses need and then translate that into the classroom. Wutzdorff said the foundation expects this to touch 3,000 students, and teachers in all four school districts in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties can apply for the program.

Boeing became intrigued by the Education Foundation’s Workplace InStitute for Educators program, Wutzdorff said, which became a model for the grant proposal. The 13-year-old WISE program gives teachers real-world experience, exposing them to with the needs and requirements of the business community and then connecting them face-to-face with business leaders who share the challenges they see.

“We’ve got a track record. We’re always learning, but we already know how to do that,” said Wutzdorff, adding that the Boeing grant will serve as an extension of the WISE program.

The Education Foundation also is partnering with the STEM Center for Development at The Citadel. Wutzdorff said the center holds learning institutes for educators on concepts such as problem-based learning, which goes “beyond pencil and paper tests,” and is critical to the success of the initiative funded by the Boeing grant.

Wutzdorff said he hopes the program can go past one year. The Education Foundation hired a coordinator for the program in January. The Education Foundation also has a committee to gauge the effectiveness of its initiatives. The Return on Investment Committee includes colleges and business professionals, he said.

“We will be able to show results, which we will be able to show to Boeing and other interested donors,” Wutzdorff said. “If we don’t take STEM seriously, we’re in trouble as a region and as a community.”

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