Last Saturday 32 students from Echo Park and Mar Vista were honored for their completion of a pilot program that combined the creative writing of 826 LA and the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics goals of Time Warner Cable’s philanthropic initiative, “Connect a Million Minds.”
Students and parents gathered at the Time Warner Cable Technology Operations building where the room was decked out with a zombie apocalypse theme. There was lunch and kids activities during the event, which culminated in four children reading their zombie apocalypse stories. Each kid received a bound volume of everyone’s zombie stories and artwork.
"I learned a lot about how science and disease makes zombies and it was really fun," said Jair Avila, a 6th grade student from Echo Park.
Time Warner Cable began “Connect a Million Minds,” a five-year, $100 million initiative, in May 2011 as an effort to get kids interested in STEM learning.
How does STEM learning relate to the 826, a non profit organization dedicated to helping students in grades K - 12 develop their creative writing skills through workshops and tutoring session?
Leah Gutstadt, manager of strategic philanthropy at Time Warner Cables Connect a Million Minds, wasn’t sure. She said the partnership developed out of a search for partners that could help kids learn in creative ways they wouldn’t have the opportunity for in the classroom but she didn't see the similarities until the partnership had already begun.
“The processes are actually really similar,” Gutstadt said. “We try to get kids to understand… science is not just about right or wrong, it’s about experimentation. It could mean failing and having to try again, continuing to revise and work towards the larger goal. There is creativity in that experimentation. Our work with 826 has helped us see that is very similar to the writing process. With writing as well as with STEM, you’re setting out to solve a problem or answer a question or accomplish some sort of goal, but it’s not always an easy process. We’re trying to teach the kids you can be both (scientific and creative) and the interest for those things can be aligned and exist simultaneously.”
Now going into its third year, the Connection a Million Minds program has continued to make sizeable donations to 826 and other organizations around the nation.
“We recognize as a company that we have a lot of amazing assets to bring to bear on an important cause,” Gutstadt said. “At an international level, we don’t match up against so many of our peers. We’re falling behind when it comes to (STEM) proficiency. We are a technology company. We’ve been successful because of our technological developments and we know that will continue to be the case in the future and we have a vested interest in getting kids interested in technology. It makes sense for us as a business but we also feel that we have the resources and ability to make an impact on a cause that’s important for everyone.”