Cradle Beach Camp is planning to build a center where students will have opportunities to learn science, technology, engineering and math skills, or STEM. On Thursday, the project's fundraising efforts got a big boost from Albany.
State Senator Chris Jacobs appeared there to announce that New York State will provide half a million dollars toward the project.
"We live in an increasingly technology-based world where proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math - collectively known as STEM - is going to be vital to not only our children's future but the economic competitiveness and the viability of this region."
The total cost is estimated at just under one million dollars. Ann-Marie Orlowski, chief executive officer of Cradle Beach Camp, said two corporate entities have also contributed money and her organization is continuing to actively seek other funding.
"The Western New York STEM Center is an economic investment which, ultimately, is designed to improve Western New York's career and talent pipeline while helping vulnerable populations fully participate in our region's revitalization but also improving the life trajectories of individuals with special needs," Orlowski said.
Among the populations underserved in STEM, according to Orlowski, are women, disabled persons and economically disadvantaged people of ethnic minorities.
One of the perceptions of a STEM education, it was discussed Thursday, was that it requires an advanced degree and, thus, is not within the reach of many people. Not so, said Dr. Joseph Gardella, a University at Buffalo professor and member of Cradle Beach Camp's board of directors. He pointed to a 2013 Brookings Institution study that found most STEM-related jobs require just two years of post-high school STEM education.
While an advanced degree may not be necessary, STEM education will be. Gardella stated while manufacturing and shipping jobs will still be out there, even they now require basic STEM skills.
"Cradle Beach is known so well for what it does. But I think the future of a camp like this is to be 365 days a year in action," Gardella said. "This building, along with a couple other buildings that have been constructed, are meant to help achieve that vision on this campus."
Cradle Beach Camp officials hope to break ground on the new STEM Center in late 2018 and open it in 2019.