The Discovery Center of Springfield is waiting to hear if they are a finalist for the sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless award, also known as the STOP Award. The award will give them $1 million in funding from Forbes and the Center for Education Reform.
Located at 438 E. St. Louis St, the Discovery Center has been teaching community members of all ages about varying topics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since 1998.
According to Forbes, the STOP Award is for facilities that continued to provide support for communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rob Blevins, executive director for the Discovery Center, said they applied for this grant in October.
“As a nonprofit organization, you’re constantly applying for different things, hoping to get them,” Blevins said. “It was a very pleasant surprise that we were selected as semi-finalists.”
The Discovery Center is just one of 20 semifinalists.
Blevins said the award would come from everything done during the pandemic to help the community. Although they do not get to pick what the grant would be used for, Blevins said it would go towards improving educational experiences, since the award is for educational reform.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Blevins said the Discovery Center offered services such as providing childcare for healthcare workers and first responders and helping children with their remote learning while schools were closed. Currently they are looking towards providing tutoring for the public.
Jackie Douglas, director of education at the center,said the impact of the Discovery Center receiving the award will be felt around the country.
“It would help produce an individualized learning experience for each student nationwide,” Douglas said.
The Discovery Center also opened a school during the pandemic, Blevins said. Since the school is located within the Discovery Center, its main focuses are on science and math.
As the pandemic testing results keep trickling in, one of the things Blevins said he took particular notice of was 19% of Springfield students on free or reduced lunch are succeeding in math. He said the Discovery Center would be helping with that by offering tutoring for students that need it.
“If we want great leaders, we need great education,” Blevins said. Both Blevins and Douglas said education is important, and the STOP award would help further education for students in the region.
Douglas said whether or not they receive the award, the Discovery Center will still be offering these services to the community. However, the award will help them reach more community members in need.
In the future, Blevins said the Discovery Center plans to keep looking for ways to help the community in times of hardship.
“We’re just going to keep listening and serving the community,” Blevins said. “We’re a non-profit, community-funded science center, and at our core, the Discovery Center exists because of our community and for the community.”
According to the STOP Award page, the winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 14 at the 30 Under 30 List launch event, hosted by Forbes.Forbes said the winning organization will be officially recognized at the 30 Under 30 gathering on Jan. 18, 2022.
“It’s awesome that my team gets to be recognized by such great organizations,” Blevins said. “To be in the top 20 of 1,000 applicants speaks volumes to the sacrifices and efforts they made to care about kids.”
Follow Makayla Malachowski on Twitter at, @MMal2024.
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