By Hannah Resendiz

Public school students in Hillsborough County will benefit from a statewide investment by AT&T this year, one that will increase their understanding of how classroom curriculum translates into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

To provide a critical link from classroom to careers, AT&T is once again working with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF) to provide experiential learning opportunities for students in school districts across Florida. Real-world applications of STEM education concepts, problem-solving and critical thinking skills will all be key elements of the 45 separate projects to be organized and funded through CFEF members, including Hillsborough Education Foundation.

On February 6, 1,479 projects were displayed at the Hillsborough Regional STEM Fair, and on February 7, the winners were selected. One former Best of Show winner even came back to speak at the breakfast provided to the event sponsors.

“The world is sometimes characterized as being divided into dreamers and doers; the science fair has allowed me to believe that the best researchers are actually both,” said Maggie Parrish, third-year environmental science major at the University of Florida. “This is the future right here and it’s incredible because you walk through and you see the most incredible projects…you just know the future is bright, so it’s hard not to be enthusiastic.”

“We know that industries engaged in STEM disciplines will create a majority of high-value, high-wage jobs within ten years; almost nine out of ten new jobs will require education beyond a high school degree,” said Joe York, AT&T Florida President. “We are pleased to make this contribution because Florida’s K-12 education foundations are well-positioned to be the link between schools and local businesses for students, enabling them to build connections with potential employers in their communities and get a sense of what careers they offer and the skill sets they require.”

Another CFEF contributor has followed AT&T’s lead to provide a similar STEM program with local impact throughout Florida. The Motorola Solutions Foundation is funding ten larger-scale projects through a competitive grant process.

Hillsborough Education Foundation provides educational resources and financial assistance to help give every Hillsborough County Public School student the opportunity to achieve personal success. For more information, visit www.EducationFoundation.com.