According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. population is also the most likely to drop out of high school. What's more, they are also highly underrepresented in technical and engineering professions, according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. That's why IBM is spearheading an effort to promote education within the Hispanic community.
Under a $2 million initiative, IBM is donating 1,000 Young Explorer™ computer centers to preschool and early childhood programs in areas with populations of 40 percent or more Hispanic as part of the IBM KidSmart Early Learning program. The program includes teacher training and curriculum targeting children between the ages of 4 to 7 years old.
The national donation was announced at Ventura Elementary School, one of the 12 elementary schools in the Florida Orange County Public School district receiving the new computers. “All students deserve access to the same resources, yet, we know that some populations face a disparity especially where English may be a second language,” said Lisa Suggs, principal at Ventura Elementary. “We’re excited to be part of this initiative and deliver high quality teaching resources to all of our children participating in this program.”
Orlando is one of 13 regions around the country to receive the computer learning centers. The other areas include Miami, Tampa, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Austin, Minneapolis, Tucson and Yonkers, New York.
The program includes the Young Explorer, a computer housed in brightly-colored, kid-friendly furniture and equipped with educational software to help children explore concepts in math, science and language. The computer centers can also help children learn socialization and collaborative learning skills, such as how to work together to solve problems and sharing.
“Independent research done in the U.S. as well as countries around the world has shown that the IBM KidSmart program improves teaching and learning especially for those children most in need,” said Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, IBM. “Today, the number of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, math and technology is extremely low. We know that early childhood education can prepare children to excel in school so that math and science are within their grasp, and all Latino students become potential scientists and engineers, not just the few.”
The KidSmart program also includes access to the KidSmart web site, which provides information for teachers and parents on early childhood learning and technology. The web site is also available in eight languages, including Spanish.
IBM developed the KidSmart program more than a decade ago to help reduce the digital divide, especially in urban areas, where it was becoming apparent that children from less affluent backgrounds could benefit from access to specialized technology tools and educational materials to better prepare them to enter school. Since then, more than 100,000 teachers have been trained on how to use the programs in the classroom.