Aurora seeks to expand program for underserved students

An Aurora City Council committee recommended the city spend an additional $75,000 on more kits for a summer and after-school STEAM program for college students.

The money would allow 400 other underserved young people in the city to join 1,600 students who participated in the program, which emphasizes science, technology, engineering, arts and math education , this year, officials said.

The program involves students in kindergarten through eighth grade designing and building something that includes students learning how to code a computer to run the items.

The program served 69% Hispanic or black students and 45% female students, with 95% of students living in households below the middle median income, officials said.

“It’s a very diverse group of students,” said Drew Yemm, director of growth at Elmhurst-based TinkRworks LLC, which supplies the kits for the program. “We have generated significant interest among students who previously had no interest in (STEAM).”

The program is paid for by the city, although the instruction is paid for by the APS Training Academy. Classes are held in APS downtown offices and classrooms.

The program began as a pilot project two years ago with students from the city’s 7th and 2nd Wards, along with city council members from those areas – Scheketa Hart-Burns, 7th Ward, and Juany Garza, 2nd Ward – participating in teaching and helping in class. .

The pilot project was considered such a success that it was rolled out across the city this year, and officials estimated it would find enough interest for 1,600 students. It turns out that many more were interested, officials said.

“The 1,600 was our best guess,” Yemm said. “Quite frankly, we underestimated demand.”

Members of the city council’s finance committee unanimously recommended the $75,000 to purchase 400 additional kits.

“This program turned out to be a great program,” Hart-Burns said. “If we teach them, they will learn.”

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Ryan H. Bowman