Grand Prize Winner

Science Career Continuum

Chicago Botanic Garden
Glencoe, IL

The Chicago Botanic Garden's Science Career Continuum (SCC) delivers E-STEM enrichment, mentorship, and authentic research opportunities to underserved Chicago Public School students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM. The program comprises three components-Science First, College First, and undergraduate internships-and targets youth from backgrounds underrepresented in science. SCC has benefited more than 500 students during its 23-year history.

SCC's replicable model supports students along a multi-year path-including critical transitions between middle school, high school, and college-and has demonstrated excellent results. Since 2008, 100% of SCC seniors have graduated from high school, 95% have matriculated to college, and 93% of survey responders have earned a post-secondary degree.

Judges Comment

Science Career Continuum applied for the UL Innovative Education Award previously, and we are so glad they reapplied for this year, because it is clear that SCC is an incredibly deep and powerful program. It provides iterative, progressive opportunities for youth to design their own learning with an eye toward ongoing improvement. With a foundation in learning systems thinking, the programs cover a wide variety of topics in E-STEM. What makes this program so inspiring is that it gives Chicago Public School students critical opportunities to cultivate positive experiences and an authentic connection with the natural environment. We see clear evidence that SCC reaches deep into the lives of these students, providing mentorship from middle school through undergraduate studies, which has resulted in many notable success stories. In addition, we appreciate that the program includes instruction and workshops in non-academic, yet critical life and professional skills, such as communication competence, which demonstrates a commitment to developing the student as a whole.”