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The Potential of STEM Education to Uplift Poor Urban Schools

LEAP University Academy Charter School founder Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago sees opportunities for STEM education to reach into impoverished areas and help lift children up to break the cycle of poverty. LEAP Academy, in Camden, NJ, has made inroads toward doing just that, with a STEM curriculum put into place last year.  It has operated through a formula that Bonilla-Santiago sees as a way of the future. "At LEAP, we are recruiting teachers from industry who are scientists first, educators second," she says. "For example, our freshman-level science classes are being taught by an energetic woman who holds a Ph.D. in physics. She can earn a lot more money in private industry, but she believes in our mission." In addition to hiring high quality teachers, Bonilla-Santiago's strategy has included developing a partnership with Rutgers University, keeping classes small, and providing teachers with ample professional development opportunities. "Add it all together, and you have the formula for opportunity," she says. "People in the inner cities need real jobs, not hourly wage work. STEM fields need skilled professionals. Sounds like a perfect fit, right?"

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