Blank Family Foundation Provides Grant for Mentoring Program

Minorities and young women in middle and high school may avoid science and math -- even when they have interest and talent in those areas. A new Georgia Tech mentoring program, funded with a $50,000 grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, aims to help these students realize their potential.

The grant will support Mentoring for Success, a pilot program for sixth through twelfth graders in the City Schools of Decatur. The Decatur students will be paired with students from Georgia Tech and the Atlanta University Center schools.

Decatur was chosen for the program because it is a good school system with a mix of students of different races and incomes, said Paul Ohme, director of the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) at Georgia Tech.

Although the system's test scores are solid as a whole, African American students tend to score lower in math and science, Ohme said. Also, minority students and girls do not enroll in higher-level science and math courses as frequently.

"These young people who have not taken these courses and have not challenged their minds may not be in a position to compete in the economy later on," Ohme said.

"This is an exciting opportunity for both our students and our teachers," said Jane Carriere, mathematics and science coordinator for the City Schools of Decatur. "We welcome Georgia Tech mentors into our classrooms to work with, challenge, and encourage our students."

The $50,000 grant is for one year, with the possibility of renewal for two years. The program would start by providing mentors for 25 sixth-graders and 25 ninth-graders and would add the same number each year. If the program is successful in Decatur, it will be offered to other school districts in metro Atlanta.

Arthur M. Blank, a co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, launched the youth-focused foundation that bears his name in 1995.

Atiba Mbiwan, program officer at the foundation, said Georgia Tech's stature as a leading technological institution played a role in the decision to award the grant.

"This certainly is an initiative that can make a difference in enhancing education," he said.

Birgit Burton, who helped secure the Blank Family Foundation grant as director of Foundation Relations in the Office of Development at Georgia Tech, said she is pleased the mentoring program was selected for funding.

"We need this support, particularly for these programs that are reach out to the community," she said, adding that only about 30 percent of Georgia Tech's funding comes from the state, and the rest must be raised from private sources.

Blank founded the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in 1995 to share his civic values and the joy of giving with his family. Since that time, foundation and personal grants have paid total more than $86 million.

For more information, contact Paul Ohme, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing, (404) 894-6179 or paul.ohme@ceismc.gatech.edu.

Also contact Jane Carriere, mathematics and science coordinator for the City Schools of Decatur, (404) 370-4410 ext. 20 or jane_carriere@decatur.city.k12.ga.us.

Atiba Mbiwan, Program Officer for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, may be reached by calling (404) 239-0600.