Funding Paves Way for Groundbreaking and School to Open in 2014-2015 School Year
AURORA – Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $3.5 million capital investment to help build the John C. Dunham STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy at Aurora University. The investment will allow construction of the school to begin immediately and open for the 2014-2015 school year. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to prepare every child for success in college, career and beyond.
“We must be sure that all of today’s children are prepared and ready for the opportunities of tomorrow,” Governor Quinn said. “STEM education is hands-on approach to learning that makes the classroom to come to life and allows minds to grow. I commend the entire Aurora community for collaborating on this effort to ensure our students get a unique educational experience that will prepare them for 21st century careers.”
Governor Quinn first visited Aurora University in 2011 to sign Senate Bill 621, which supported the creation of a math and science partnership school operated by Aurora’s four school districts and Aurora University on campus. Through private fundraising, Aurora University was able to secure $7 million of the $12 million needed for the John C. Dunham STEM Academy, and Governor Quinn recently signed the budget appropriating $3.5 million to the school to allow construction to begin.
"It is clear that STEM education is essential in preparing our students for thriving careers in the global workforce,” Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. “The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University will be the educational epicenter for Aurora’s third through eighth grade students and their teachers who are leading the way in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It is because of the dedication of our educators and business leaders, and the unprecedented commitment from our elected officials that this vision is becoming a reality in Aurora. Thank you to Governor Quinn and all of our lawmakers for collaborating with us to set a new standard of educational excellence.”
The partnership school is the cornerstone of the Mathematics and Science Education Center of Aurora University, which was launched by the university's Institute for Collaboration in 2009 to address the deficiencies in STEM education in the United States. The center's programs also include content-based bachelors’ and masters’ degrees, professional workshops and institutes for teachers, and after-school and summer studies programs for students.
“It’s all been about working together to find ways to give students in Aurora the best possible opportunities to learn and grow and achieve their full potential,” Aurora University President Rebecca Sherrick said. “At Aurora University, that’s what we’re about every day, and we’re especially grateful for our amazing array of partners that come from so many parts of the community to support an innovative agenda.”
State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) and State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) have been strong supporters of the John C. Dunham STEM Academy and worked to appropriate the funds in the 2014 fiscal year budget.
“The construction of the STEM Academy at Aurora University will bring new science and engineering opportunities for young students,” State Representative Chapa LaVia said. “It’s important that we provide our children with every possible chance to succeed academically, and projects like this are vital investments in their future to help make that happen.”
“Our next generation of scientists and engineers will come from the John C. Dunham STEM Academy at Aurora University,” State Senator Holmes said. “The new construction demonstrates our commitment to funding programs that focus on math and science to ensure our students and our economy remain competitive.”
When fully operational, the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School on the Aurora University campus will serve approximately 200 students in third through eighth grades from four area public school districts (Aurora East, Aurora West, Indian Prairie and Oswego). The school’s curriculum will be aligned to new educational standards and is being developed cooperatively by the four participating districts, the university, the corporate sector, and governmental and not-for-profit partners.
The school will be staffed via a unique professional development model. Teachers will be drawn from the four partner districts and will earn content-based STEM master’s degrees during their residency in the school. They then will return to their home districts ready to serve as teacher-leaders and a new generation of professionals will take their places.
Aurora University has more than 4,700 degree-seeking students enrolled at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. The university has a long tradition of preparing students for lives of service and leadership, and using its resources and expertise to meet the needs of the community. In addition to its fiscal contribution, Aurora University is donating the land for the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School.
Last year, Governor Quinn announced “STEM Learning Exchanges,” a unique $10.3 million public-private partnership that links educational opportunities with business resources to prepare students to compete in the global economy.
In 2011, Governor Quinn launched Illinois Pathways, an education initiative to support college and career readiness. Coordinated through a partnership between the state’s education and economic development agencies, Illinois Pathways supports local programs that empower youth and adults to explore academic and career interests in STEM fields while supporting Learning Exchanges that coordinate investments, resources and planning for those programs. To learn more about Illinois Pathways, please visit: www.illinoisworknet.com/ilpathways.
Read the official press release here.
© Illinois Science and Technology Coalition
Illustration by Dieter Braun