Grants enable STEM-focused organizations to adapt to COVID and expand their reach into the future

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Guest article by Towika Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc.

Since 2005, I have had the privilege of doing work that is fulfilling to me and that excites me as founder and managing director of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc. (SEM link). In the summer of 2020, the philanthropic community evaluated its fundraising strategies to increase support for Black-led organizations, which are historically underfunded. SEM Link was one of the organizations that benefited from this change. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta awarded SEM Link three grants between November 2020 and May 2021: two from the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in partnership with United Way of Greater Atlanta and one general operating support grant. These grants have allowed us to rethink our programming and receive funding from other foundations to support our work.

In November 2020, we received our first COVID relief fund grant who have supported our transition to virtual programming. Due to the pandemic, our programs were suspended from March 2020 to July 2020. In August 2020, some of our Academy of Careers in Mathematics and Science programs resumed virtually, allowing us to serve more young people, expose them to more STEM career paths, and create content for our Youtube channel. With this funding, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation granted us a capacity building grant in February 2021. We used these funds for infrastructure development, replenishment and training of the Board of Directors, revamping the fundraising structure, and implementing financial controls for greater sustainability.

In January 2021, we received a grant to support the general operation of the Community Foundation. The funds were used to pilot our STEM Journal Club and grow our STEM social media workshop in our Experimental Design Program. In February 2021, we launched our STEM Journal Club for students at Metro Atlanta High School. This program aims to develop STEM literacy skills in high school students from ethnic and racial communities with historically low participation in high-level STEM research competitions to spark their interest in STEM research. In September 2021, we obtained a Science Sandbox grant to build on the success of the pilot project and support a second cohort of the STEM Book Club. In the summer of 2021, we developed the Social Media STEM Workshop curriculum. We held the first workshop in October 2021 for our community partner 100 Black Men of Atlanta.

In May 2021, we received our latest COVID relief grant who supported the launch of our STEM literacy program. This program focuses on developing literacy skills and introducing young people to STEM subjects. This program provided elementary schools in the city of Atlanta and South Fulton with funding to purchase STEM books for their school libraries. He also provided culturally relevant STEM books and graphic novels for a community library in the city of Atlanta.

Thanks to what I have been able to accomplish with this funding, I have has been selected for the 2021 edition Philanthropy 100 List Organized by Unboxed Philanthropy Advisors. This funding has supported the work that has been in SEM Link’s program and strategic plan for years. The organization was waiting for investment from foundations to do the work. Once we received the investments, we were able to start work immediately. I look forward to the continued support of foundations, especially those that can grant us comparable or larger scholarships. I want foundations to build on the work they started in 2020 and their fundraising strategies to continuously fund organizations like SEM Link to ensure our growth and sustainability. Leaders of Black-led organizations often represent the communities they serve and do impactful work in the community.

About the SEM link

Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc. (SEM Link) is a national tax-exempt nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by Tokiwa T. Smith in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principle that exposure to science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is key to inspiring K-12 students to pursue careers in STEM. SEM Link programs and events educate students about STEM careers and encourage their participation in STEM research through digital learning and hands-on activities. For more information about SEM Link, visit our website at www.semsuccess.org.

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