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$1 million grant to help AmeriCorps members gain STEM skills

Chris Caya

A three-year, $1 million federal grant has been awarded to the Buffalo nonprofit Mission: Ignite to promote the development of STEM skills among young people. The funding will go toward a project called Ignite Your Life, which will help AmeriCorps members develop career-oriented science, technology, engineering and math skills that project leaders say will help them find quality jobs once in the workforce.

At a news conference Monday, board president Brendan Lillis said expanding skills in those fields will serve young people well as they enter the workforce.

"Western New York has a very fast-growing and high-tech business community. Ensure that our local students and recent graduates are prepared for the workplace is essential to their future and for the future of Western New York," Lillis said.

Rep. Brian Higgins reiterated that importance, noting that employment in STEM occupations has grown by 79% since 1990.

"STEM training is associated with higher earnings, as well, with STEM workers making about 25% more in annual earnings than those with the same level of college experience," Higgins said.

Higgins said according to a recent analysis, U.S. students rank sixth from the bottom in math and science scores compared to students in 34 other nations. He said women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce.

Mission: Ignite, formerly called Computers For Children, is matching the grant with an additional $449,000. Another $472,000 in AmeriCorps education awards is available to participating members.

WBFO's Chris Caya contributed to this report.

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