On Thursday night, social entrepreneurs pitched their hearts out on behalf of their civic causes during Atlanta’s first Philanthropitch. Its success came as no surprise with partners like ChooseATL, Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN), and the Center for Civic Innovation powering together to help every pitching nonprofit walk away with cash to fund their causes. $61,500 – $11,000 more than originally anticipated – was up for grabs for seven selected initiatives – STE(A)M Truck, The Scholarship Academy, re:imagineATL, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP), New Generation Men (NGM), Moving in the Spirit, and Community Farmers Market.
Jason Martin, founder and CEO of STE(A)M Truck – one of the biggest winners of the night and upcoming White House attendee for the National Week of Making – discusses what it was like to participate in Philanthropitch, how they hope to increase access to education, and where they’re rolling to next.
STE(A)M Truck is the state’s first “mobile maker space” — can you expand on what that entails and the curriculum you teach?
STE(A)M Truck is Community Guilds’ core program. It is a 20-day program, typically occurring during the school day and delivered in partnership with elementary and middle schools serving high-need student populations. The experience is anchored in three strategic “levers”:
- Providing students with hands-on opportunities to make and learn through individual and team-based experiences, building non-cognitive skills and igniting excitement about learning
- Connecting students to community members with STEM-related careers, giving them a deep and meaningful exposure to mentors different from those they typically access on a daily basis (e.g., artists, industrial designers) and expanding their worldview about future possibilities
- Equipping classroom educators with the ability to shape instruction through experiential and problem-based learning, enabling them to deepen and reinforce the learnings from the STE(A)M Truck experience so they can continue to take this approach to more students, beyond those directly served by the program
Have you participated in pitch events before? How was your experience presenting at Philanthropitch?
Yes. Philanthropitch was fantastic and we very much appreciate that all who participated came away with monies to further their mission.
What’s your advice for other social entrepreneurs who hope to pitch in similar events in the future?
Practice, practice and more practice. Also, know how your solution is tackling a real problem and why your solution is better, more efficient, or more effective than others.
You were awarded $12,500 at Philanthropitch. How do you hope to allocate those funds moving forward?
We received a $25k grant from the Blank Foundation to build out a new trailer, but do not have a vehicle powerful enough to tow. With Board approval, I would like to use these monies to purchase a pickup truck to tow our newest trailer.
You’re 2 years into a 5-year strategic plan with Community Guilds. What have you accomplished so far? What’s on deck for next year?
In its second year of operation, over 500 students and 10 educators completed a STE(A)M Truck 20-day program. Community Guilds has partnered with several organizations, including district schools (e.g., Atlanta Public Schools), charter schools and networks (e.g., KIPP Metro Atlanta, The Kindezi Schools), and community organizations (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta). Our programming was awarded an Innovation grant through the Governor’s Office, and an external evaluation through that office found that students who complete our program made statistically significant gains in all constructs. Community Guilds’ programming helped build students’ STEM and non-cognitive skills (e.g., grit and perseverance, creativity and innovation, and teamwork and collaboration) they need to be successful.
Impact: Stakeholder feedback has been highly positive: a local superintendent stated, “STE(A)M Truck is the most innovative thing happening in education”. More importantly, it works. Early outcomes have been promising, with statistically significant increases in students’ non-cognitive skills and interest in STEM.
- 97%+ of students improved non-cognitive skills
- 90%+ of students performed at satisfactory competency levels on non-cognitive skills
- Increased student interest and willingness to take risks and try new things in learning
STEM skills and awareness
- 87%+ of students have improved applied STEM skills
- 2/3 (and as high as 90%) of students perform at satisfactory competency levels on STEM skills
- 73%+ of students have increased interest and confidence in pursuing a STEM career
Over the next five years, Community Guilds is committed to strengthening and deepening its impact, while driving to greater scale and sustainability, in two main ways. First, Community Guilds will continue to refine its STE(A)M Truck and student engagement model, both by codifying and standardizing certain elements and by piloting variations to others. Second, Community Guilds will work to deepen its supports to educators over time, extending design thinking techniques into the classroom and creating longer-term sustainable impact.
By 2019, our goal is to serve 4,000 students and 100 teachers annually, this will be achieved by building out three more STE(A)M Truck platforms. We aim to increase the number of platforms and have them dedicated to a cluster of schools, such as Atlanta Public School’s Washington cluster. The cluster approach supports transformation of teaching and learning well beyond a single school’s cohort of students and teachers and this scaling is critical for us to reach the tipping point and ensure lasting impact.
Photo Credits: Headline – Philanthropitch, STE(A)M Truck Check – Bella Hoffner Martin, Kids Jump for STE(A)M Truck – Kevin Ngo