SOUTH AUSTIN — The mayor and the U.S. Navy secretary trumpeted a $2 million Navy grant to Chicago schools in a visit to Michele Clark Magnet High School Thursday.
The five-year, $2 million grant benefits Michele Clark and four other high schools devoted to the Science Technology Engineering Math [STEM] curriculum, as well as Chicago Public Schools' two Navy-associated military academies.
"My only desire is that we do more of this," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "My commitment is whole-hearted. ... It really does open people's eyes."
"This is a core Navy interest," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "It's the way to make a learning that sticks."
He added that the U.S. military has two main advantages: its technology, and the people who design, build and operate that technology. "That's why the Navy is interested in this."
Some of that interest in bringing skilled people to the Navy was direct, as with Knowledge Brown, a Rickover Navy Academy student who said he aspired to be a Navy officer.
Yet Clark student Tia Schaffer said she was aiming for a career in business, but that the STEM curriculum specialized in "problem solving" that translates to that and many other fields.
"It's very beneficial to work hands-on" and "actually see it firsthand," Schaffer said as part of a roundtable discussion with the mayor and the Navy secretary. She cited Clark's sponsorship by Cisco Systems, which supplies mentoring and internships. Other major businesses sponsor other STEM programs at CPS.
Emanuel affirmed that approach. "I want everybody to have this type of education," he said. "That STEM education is foundational."
"You're gonna earn what you learn," he added.
As part of their visit, Emanuel and Mabus saw students work with remote-controlled boats and underwater robots in the Clark pool.
The Navy grant will benefit STEM programs at Clark, Corliss, Chicago Vocational, Goode and Lake View high schools, as well as Rickover and the Marine Military Academy. Known as Critical MASS, the program will involve about 1,000 students over the five years.
Mabus laughed off the process Emanuel went through to get the grant, saying, "If he can overcome his shyness and actually ask for something, I think he'll go a long way."