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Navy invests in Chicago schools science, tech program

Updated: March 20, 2013 6:22AM

CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling in the Navy — literally — to give Chicago Public School students the expertise they need to qualify for technology jobs.

The Department of the Navy has disclosed plans to make a five-year, $2 million investment in students at Chicago’s Rickover Naval Academy and at five schools specializing in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM.

Thanks to the Navy, up to 1,000 students attending those six schools will benefit from intensive summer enrichment programs, year-round mentoring and free computer science classes at Chicago City Colleges to earn advanced college-level credit.

The Chicago program is still in the design stages but it was described as a “full-day, STEM summer camp” that will build on what students learn during the school year.

Summer program leaders will provide year-round mentoring to students. The Navy also will pay for students to attend computer science and other STEM-related courses at City Colleges so they can pile up college credits.

Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said the Navy has 20 STEM initiatives around the country. Chicago’s five STEM high schools and their proximity to Naval Station Great Lakes made this the “right time to partner with Chicago,” Klunder said.

“In really challenging times fiscally, even a small investment could have a huge, positive impact on our young people,” said Klunder, Naval STEM executive, and chief of naval research.

Klunder said summer camp participants would be exposed to “Naval-relevant content and research,” including “undersea challenges with undersea vehicles,” the oceans and Navy architecture in salt water.

“Our work force in our labs and work centers — these are scientists. They’re getting gray hair and gray beards. Fifty percent of them may retire in the next five years,” he said. “This program will not only improve our national STEM effort, but hopefully some young people energized by hearing about a laser system or underwater vehicle might want to join our family.”

“By partnering with the Department of the Navy, we are taking a huge step towards this goal, deepening our students’ science, technology and math skills and supporting them with real-world, in-demand and Naval-relevant experiences that open the doors even wider to future career options,” Emanuel said.

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