UNCF Announces Inaugural Class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars

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$48 million commitment over five years will invest in and empower the next generation of African American STEM innovators and tech entrepreneurs

Class of 2016 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars

Thanks to Fund II Foundation and UNCF, with the opportunities afforded through this award, I’ll be able to make my dream a reality. - Calen Robinson

With grant support from Fund II Foundation totaling approximately $48 million, UNCF today announced its first class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars (STEM Scholars). The 100 top-performing African American high school seniors, selected from across the nation, will each receive a total award package of up to $25,000 that includes scholarships and a stipend for STEM internships over five years. In addition, the program will provide wrap-around support critical to students’ academic success. The award will enable the students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at the college or university of their choosing while learning about innovation and startup tech entrepreneurship.

UNCF and Fund II Foundation President Robert F. Smith have been focused on diversity and inclusion efforts, respectively, and in particular in the software industry. With African Americans making up less than five percent of the science and engineering workforce, and less than one percent of all tech startups, Fund II Foundation and UNCF joined together to address this challenge. The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program will create a robust pipeline of African American students well prepared to have careers in the tech industry and to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

“We are thrilled by the selection of the first 100 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars,” said Linda Wilson, Fund II Foundation executive director. “These young scholars offer so much hope and excitement for the future as technology is transforming the economy at lightning speed.”

Applications opened in November 2015 and closed in February, with more than 2,300 students applying for the coveted awards. The inaugural class of 100 STEM Scholars comprises 50 men and 50 women with an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.83. With regard to their academic aspirations, 44 percent of the scholars plan to pursue a degree in the sciences; eight percent will pursue technology; 45 percent, engineering; and three percent, mathematics.

One STEM Scholar, Calen Robinson, is a standout student from Brookhaven, PA, with a 3.94 GPA. He graduated as a home-schooled student, supplemented by dual enrollment classes at Widener University and Delaware County Community College. He plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University this fall and study computer engineering. Aspiring to become a chief technology officer, Calen understands the importance of protecting the integrity of a company’s information technology and data infrastructure.

“Protecting a company’s data and the data entrusted to it by its clients is an important task. Without security, there would be no trust in clients, and profits would decrease in any business model,” Robinson said. “Thanks to Fund II Foundation and UNCF, with the opportunities afforded through this award, I’ll be able to make my dream a reality. My work will have a far-reaching benefits for everyone who uses the network.”

Over the next four years, the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program will continue its nationwide search to identify 100 more of the most highly motivated and academically talented African American high school students each year who are committed to pursuing STEM majors in college and careers in STEM industries. In addition to scholarships, the program will support their academic progress through mentoring and career development with internships that will help prepare them for the tech workforce.

The program also will expose students to the principles of startup tech entrepreneurship and offer them a unique opportunity to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures upon graduation. Scholars will receive $2,500 per academic year as freshmen and sophomores, $5,000 a year as juniors and seniors, an additional $5,000 for students whose academic programs require a fifth year, and a $5,000 stipend based on a STEM-related project/internship of the student’s interest.

“We are excited to welcome the inaugural class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. “These students will set the bar in demonstrating that African American students from various backgrounds who are rich in talent can excel at the highest levels in any of the nation’s colleges and universities they choose to attend. We look forward to the positive impact the program will have on the lives of these new STEM Scholars and, in turn, how they will enhance their respective industries, their communities and the global economy in the years to come.”

This year’s cohort represents 29 states, with Georgia, Maryland and Texas having the highest number of scholars per state with 14, 10 and eight respectively. Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have seven scholars each. The scholars will attend 71 different elite colleges and universities, including 12 scholars who will attend seven historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Of those, five are UNCF-supported HBCUs: Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee University, Wilberforce University and Xavier University of Louisiana. Thirteen scholars will attend seven of the nation’s eight Ivy League institutions.

The inaugural class of STEM Scholars will meet for a leadership summit July 29-31 in Atlanta, where they will meet one another, map out academic and career goals, and hear from African American experts within the STEM fields, including Dr. Ebony McGee, assistant professor of diversity and urban schooling at Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Karl Pendergrass, a UNCF Merck postdoctoral fellow who is director of medical affairs for the cardiovascular and metabolic disease team at Merck. Fund II Foundation executive director Linda Wilson will also welcome the scholars at the summit.

Click here to view the Class of 2016 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars listed by last name
Click here to view the Class of 2016 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars listed by home state/U.S. territory
View photos from the inaugural Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars orientation, with photo credit to Johnathon Henninger for UNCF

UNCF annually awards more than $100 million via 10,000 scholarships each year. Of the 400 scholarship, internship and fellowship programs UNCF annually offers, 12 percent are STEM-related. The $48 million grant by Fund II Foundation marks the largest donation in UNCF’s 72-year history granted by an African American-led foundation.
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About Fund II Foundation
Fund II Foundation is a charitable foundation, at the heart of which is a deep commitment to advance social change, create opportunity, respect and protect the environment, and preserve our culture. Fund II Foundation is focused on improving lives and opportunities for African-American and other vulnerable populations. Fund II Foundation makes grants to 501(c)(3) public charities in five areas: 1) preservation of the African-American experience; 2) safeguarding human dignity by giving a voice to the voiceless and promoting human rights; 3) improving environmental conservation and providing outdoor education that enables people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the numerous benefits of the great outdoors; 4) facilitating music education, particularly in primary and secondary schools, to nourish both the mind and the soul; and 5) sustaining the uniquely American values of entrepreneurship, empowerment, innovation and security. For more information on Fund II Foundation, visit http://www.fund2foundation.org.

About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”®. Learn more at UNCF.org. For continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, at @UNCF and #Fund2UNCFSTEMScholar.

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