When I talk about Northwestern Mutual’s hi, Tech program, many people picture my teammates and I hosting job shadows, mentoring sessions and other events for students. What they may not picture is the work of our community partners, who are spearheading their own respective missions. We know that if students return to schools post-COVID-19 where they can’t further explore tech learning and careers, events aren’t enough. Thus, hi, Tech invests grant funds in organizations that are, in turn, investing in building and scaling tech education and experiences for Milwaukee’s K-12 students.

Like my team and I, many of our partner organizations work directly with students, knowing the value of in-person role models and hands-on learning. So when the coronavirus-related restrictions went into place, our partners found themselves at a loss. I immediately reached out to them, in the spirit of true partnership, to communicate two things:

  1. We trust you – not just now, but always. Grant goals and metrics may change, but we know you will do your best to still find a way to drive impact for students.
  2. We encourage collaborative innovation. This crisis presents an opportunity to pivot and get creative, and we would love to learn from you and be thought partners in the process.

The thoughtful responses that came pouring in all had a similar theme: With the challenge of virtually engaging students all day, the equity gaps in device and Wi-Fi access, and the need to ensure students don’t fall behind in the basics (math and reading), STEM education was quickly being put on the back burner – and simply put, our partners weren’t having it.

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