Author James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream,” defining it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” Equal access to quality education is essential for future generations to realize the full potential of their abilities, and to realize the extent of opportunities available to them.
In 21st century America, we are members of a society whose success demands a highly technical and diverse workforce—a need that will only increase in our ever-connected world. Through our work as a global technology company, we at Symantec are acutely aware of this reality. Our progress and ability to remain competitive in today’s global economy depends upon highly skilled, specialized employees.
We work to address this demand by collaborating with non-profit and government partners to provide opportunities for children and teens to learn more about the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We recently partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), an organization that recognizes the need to improve academic success among youth. With one out of every four students failing to graduate from high school in the U.S., and world rankings of 17th in science literacy and 25th in math literacy, progress must be immediate if we intend to create a future in which our children are positioned as well, or better, than we were to achieve the “American Dream.”
With roots going back to 1860, BGCA programs are built on the concept of “fun with purpose.” Through an enriching environment, young people learn and develop the skills they need to succeed in school, life and future careers. Clubs offer a safe, affordable place for kids during non-school hours and during long summer days. As the nation’s largest building-centered, youth-focused provider of after-school programs, BGCA has the challenge of not just keeping children safe, but also staying relevant and engaging. With more than 4,000 Clubs throughout the country and BGCA-affiliated youth centers on U.S. military installations worldwide, BGCA is able to reach nearly 4 million young people annually, 23 percent of whom are Latino.
The partnership with BGCA exemplifies our work to increase equal access to quality education. Together, we developed programs designed to increase access to and excitement about STEM, including STEM Mini-Grants to individual BGCA Clubs to develop or grow a STEM-related program. Through these initiatives, we are working to reach youth within every school-age group and make STEM education programs more accessible. We want to inspire children and spark their interest in STEM, so they are aware of the vast career possibilities available to them.
Providing STEM education to children and teens is a business imperative in order to build a diversified and innovative future workforce, but it’s also the right thing to do. It is a natural extension of our role in the marketplace to reach out and support the communities that support us. We consider it our responsibility to give back in ways that can help create a society better prepared to embrace a continually evolving, innovative world. We want every child to have access to the tools they need to pursue their passions. Because of the nature of our work, we know we can have a great impact in giving children – particularly those in underserved communities—the educational tools they need to pursue careers in STEM. We feel strongly that it is critical to provide opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach.
Through partnerships among businesses, non-profit organizations and communities, we can equip young people with the skills they need to pursue their dreams in today’s information economy—the skills that will increase the opportunities available to them and empower them to pursue the “American Dream.”
Julie Talbot-Hubbard is Chief Security Officer and Vice President at Symantec.