From a press release issued by United Way of South Hampton Roads
The United Way of South Hampton Roads African American Leadership Society (AALS) launched a scholarship program for Black students in Coastal Virginia pursuing a higher education degree in science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM). The new program, funded by a $400,000 grant from USAA, will award 120 scholarships to Black high school seniors or veterans with 50% of scholarships allocated for female applicants and 25% for first-generation college students.
“At United Way of South Hampton Roads, we recognize the need to support Black students in realizing their dream of securing a college degree while also increasing the number of Black professionals in the STEM job market,” said Joe Brooks, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of South Hampton Roads. “Our African American Leadership Society saw this as a perfect opportunity to help promote equity and bridge that gap.”
Data from the Pew Research Center shows that Black students and professionals, particularly females, are underrepresented in STEM-related fields both in academics and in the workforce. Locally in Coastal Virginia, opportunity and achievement gaps exist between the Black community and every other population group. Black students are approximately 15% less likely to pass Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests in math and science when compared to their white or Asian peers, despite having similar aptitude. Additionally, only 57% of Black students in Virginia enroll in an institution of higher education within 16 months of earning a diploma, compared to 68% of white students and 82% of Asian students, according to the Legal Aid Justice Center.
“We are extremely supportive of helping to narrow the opportunity and achievement gaps for our Black students,” said Ray LaSalle, general manager of USAA’s Chesapeake office. “The diversity in our community should be reflected in the diversity in career fields.”