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Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative

Chicago, IL

Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative logo


The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative is a community-based effort to survey out-of-school time programs and consider the ways in which education institutions, businesses and city services could work together to build and support equitable and accessible pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics for Chicago’s young people. The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative is a community-driven initiative that works to address inequities in the STEM learning continuum. In our 2013 State of STEM in Out-of-School Time in Chicago Report, we identified that Chicago has a wealth of STEM learning opportunities for youth, in classrooms and through out-of-school time experiences. However, challenges to access and equity continue to persist for young people – particularly those from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. In response to the data, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (STEM Co-op) was formed.

The STEM Co-op:

Is guided by the premise that access to a continuum of high-quality, STEM experiences across all years of development can provide a strong foundation for success in adulthood and support civic, college, and work readiness.

Understands that the STEM ecosystem reflects the combined STEM learning opportunities for students and families, recognizing that STEM learning can happen any time, anywhere, at any pace.

Recognizes that access to STEM learning opportunities in Chicago is unequal and therefore, we strive to advance policies and practices to close opportunity gaps and address inequities, at both the system and local level.

Convenes cross-sector stakeholders to move from a fragmented STEM landscape of efforts towards a coordinated approach.

Engages in collaborative knowledge-building, rooted in research and implementation evaluation, that takes the form of thoughtful sharing and discussion of best practices – allowing research to inform our collective practice and knowledge to flow across sectors and domains.

Collaborates via affinity groups, cross-sector partnerships, and regular convenings among stakeholders to build trust, drive common motivation, and develop shared language and common understanding of assets and opportunities within the ecosystem.

Takes collective action through common agenda setting that closes opportunity gaps and, ultimately, strengthens the lives of citizens and communities.

Key Programs

STEM Signing Day: Just like college signing days for athletes, STEM Signing Day celebrates outstanding high school seniors from around the state as they make their commitments to education programs focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

STEM Signing Day is an annual event that celebrates the accomplishments of Chicago Public School (CPS) and Gary, Indiana high school that aim to pursue a STEM-related post-secondary career. These students complete an application providing information about what inspired them to pursue STEM, what STEM programs the participated in whether a class or after school program

STEM Signing Day Road Show: STEM Signing Day Roadshows connect students with STEM mentors, leading challenges, providing a glimpse into various STEM fields, and sharing information about STEM Signing Day Scholarship application opportunities.

STEM Mentor Program: The STEM Mentor program provides STEM Signing Day recipients and alum with support on their academic and career pursuits. STEM Mentors are a viable and incredible resource. STEM Mentors help mentees navigate the undergraduate and graduate educational journey by imparting wisdom and advice.

STEM Mentors are STEM professionals from various corporations like the Boeing Company, Motorola Solutions Foundation or STEM institutions, and colleges and universities, students who are currently pursuing STEM in undergrad, graduate, or PhD, and STEM Signing Day alum.

Chicago Learning Days: Chicago Learning Days is a celebration of innovative experiences and opportunities for youth to develop their sense of creativity, perseverance, and curiosity.

My Chi. My Future: My CHI. My Future. is a citywide initiative (not a
program) that encompasses all youth programming, youth jobs, and youth opportunities in the City of Chicago. The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative, through Project Exploration leads the MCMF work in the Austin Community.

STEAMbassadors: STEAMbassadors are specially-trained mentors from partnering two-and four-year institutions that engage elementary and middle-school-aged youth in STEAM activities such as coding music, flying drones, building machines, and writing stories in online and face-to-face informal learning spaces.

STEM in the CHI: STEM in the CHI builds bridges for students to experience Chicago’s premier science organizations during school breaks.

STEM Push Network: The STEM PUSH Network is a diverse group of partners, working to create systemic change in the post-secondary admissions process by reinventing the relationship between pre-college STEM programs and higher education admissions offices.


Natasha Smith-Walker
Executive Director, Project Exploration

Sarah Tinsman
Director of the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative