Today, The Center for Education Reform (CER) and its media partner Forbes revealed the 5 semifinalists up for the inaugural $1 million STOP Award (short for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless).
The inaugural award, announced at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit in October, recognizes education innovators, providers and workers who did exemplary work during the pandemic benefiting underserved students and students from low income families.
The 5 finalists have been invited to attend the Forbes 30 Under 30 list launch party in New York on December 14 where the grand prize winner will be announced. In addition to the $1 million prize, the four runners-up will each receive $250,000.
Below are the 5 finalists:
1. Discovery Center of Springfield, Missouri
Located in the heart of the Ozarks, The Discovery Center of Springfield is a hands-on museum that aims to inspire people of all ages to remain curious about the world and how humans fit in it. Founded in 1991, the Center is made up of 7 floors and offers exhibits, a plethora of activities, and inexpensive plans for parties and rentals.
Rob Blevins, executive director of the Discovery Center of Springfield, says that they were one of the only science centers in the world that remained open and serving kids in person during COVID-19. “We did that by transitioning the 60,000 foot center to emergency license educational care for kids,” Blevins says.
2. Dallas Education Foundation
A non-profit, philanthropic partner of Dallas Independent School District, the Dallas Education Foundation aims to inspire community investment to accelerate student success.
Taylor Shead, founder and CEO of STEMuli says that during the pandemic we built a platform that was essentially a virtual school house and what we found was that it was not engaging to have kids on a Zoom window all day long.
“What we built is an educational metaverse where students can socialize, they can have fun and they can go to school and learn,” Shead says. “We created a platform where students select their own avatar and walk in a 3D classroom environment with a video conference that we built.”
3. Louisiana Key Academy
A school for kids with dyslexia in Baton Rouge, The Louisiana Key Academy is a tuition free school which offers courses like Structured Language Arts, Math, Academic Labs, Art, Drama, Physical Education and Health.
“Without permission in July of 2020 we were the first to open our doors for 11 months of in-person learning,” Heather Bourgeois, CEO of Louisiana Key Academy, says. “It is a game changer because we teach dyslexic children to read and we give them their self-esteem.”
4. CARE Elementary
CARE (short for Christian Academy for Reaching Excellence) is a tuition-free private school in Miami which serves students for underprivileged students (household income a little over $17,000 a year).
Christopher Simmonds, Principal of CARE Elementary School says that the school offers high quality education in a loving, Christian environment.
“We are high on technology and we are high on emphasizing reading,” Simmonds says. “We want each child to have a love for literacy as we feel that the gift of quality education can help end generational poverty.”
5. Rock by Rock
A hybrid learning platform empowers students to complete real-world projects, Rock By Rock offers online student modules, hands-on learning, printable student log and a teachers guide.
Jeff Imrich, cofounder of Rock by Rock says that they are building a Netflix of project-based learning and an on-demand affordable of projects for kids and educators in any setting.
“Our goal is that by 2025 we have a million students across the country who are empowered in this way to learn differently and take action in their world,” Imrich says.