Southern California Program
The Help Group
Sherman Oaks, CA
The Help Group’s STEM3Academy is pioneering a new approach to educating students with high-functioning autism and other special needs who have excellent pattern recognition and concentration abilities along with an affinity for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). With some 85% of special needs young adults being underemployed or unemployed, the goal of the STEM3 Academy is to pave the way to more independent lives. In 2013, the STEM3Academy high school program was piloted and a middle school program was subsequently added. Early results from the first high school class indicate lower absenteeism, higher enthusiasm and accelerated class participation. Students also benefit from partnerships with business and industry, job skills development, and links to college and career to forge pathways to future employment. Parents saw their children succeeding in school projects for the first time and described the program’s impact as “life-changing.” A grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation will provide four new staff to expand the program to elementary school students, more fully develop the curriculum, incorporating Common Core, project-based, and 21st Century skills, integrate the Innovation Lab and Maker Space across all grades and disciplines, secure more mentorships and internships and provide additional teacher training and leadership development. Planned enrollment will grow from 63 to 115 students by 2018.
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