'Hidden Figures' - no more: Barrington-based U.S. Minority Contractors Association raises scholarship funds for STEM at Itasca Golf Outing
As students return to school this fall, the U.S. Minority Contractors Association (USMCA) has the future in mind as they work to assist students that have a focus in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) to receive a quality education.
Take Michelle, for example. She attended high school in the south suburbs of Chicago and very much wanted to go to college to study psychology. However, without assistance, her dreams seemed very far off. She found the help she needed through the Barrington-based USMCA. Through its STEM Education Foundation which partners with various high schools to provide scholarships, mentorship and support for students in a STEM education path, she was able to reduce the financial burden to herself and her family.
With a mission of helping often underrepresented students, USMCA is developing relationships with many colleges and universities, and has a special focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's). Because of the support of the USMCA, Michelle was able to attend Northern Illinois University, and the $1,000 renewable scholarship was instrumental in helping afford tuition and supplies.
But financial support wasn't all the group provided. When Michelle hit a rough patch in her sophomore year, USMCA mentors supported her and helped her to carry through. Now a senior, she plans for a career in human resources with a degree in Industrial Organization Psychology.
Not so long ago, Michelle might have been one of the "Hidden Figures" in achieving a quality education. But the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie, which told the story of three brilliant African-American women at NASA, whose genius in mathematics, engineering and more helped the United States put a man on the moon, inspired the USMCA to create its STEM Educational Foundation to encourage and support young people like Michelle, and to support students entering the trades. The dream was to provide scholarships for STEM education and colleges supporting technology, mathematics, and science education. Given the shortage of trained construction trades personnel, the program also now includes these students.
To raise needed funds, they launched an annual super-golf outing, "Swing for Scholarships," which in 2022 was held August 17 at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca. Eighty golfers, including former White Sox All-Star Carlos May, raised more than $25,000, (and still counting). \
"This event marked a significant day in the history of the STEM Education Foundation," said Rev. Larry Bullock, Chief Executive Officer of USMCA. "Funds raised this year will enable us to exceed our prior year's goal of 25 scholarship awards and potentially exceed 35 scholarships in 2022. Moreover, we are intentional in our efforts to increase female and minority participation as recipients. HBCU's will be supported too with money raised."
USMCA awards $500 STEM scholarships in middle and secondary schools, and $1,000 scholarships for underserved minorities and women attending college and universities. All scholarships are renewable annually.
Hidden Figures- No More
The USMCA STEM program helps advance access to STEM fields in targeted communities by utilizing the professional services and construction firms within the USMCA to offer opportunities that guide local youth towards pursuing advanced degrees and careers, as well as preparing for careers in the trades, such as HVAC maintenance, CDL licenses, and auto mechanics.
"Most importantly," says Rev. Bullock, "the STEM Program inspires students to ask questions, identify challenges, probe new techniques and create solutions in these disciplines." He continued, "By providing internships to member firms in the built industry, and supporting future workforce in Architecture, Engineering and Technology professions, along with construction management and future entrepreneurs, STEM is literally paying it forward!"
Bernie Held, USMCA's Secretary and Chairperson of the Scholarship committee within the STEM Education Foundation, remembered other scholars. "We've supported nursing students at Purdue University-Northwest, as well as another young man from Humboldt Park, who was homeless and living in a group home, who wanted to be an auto mechanic."
Corporations Step Up for STEM and USMCA
Supporting the golf outing in 2022 were new event co-sponsor McDonald's USA, as well as the FH Paschen Company, Wintrust Financial Corporation, CORE Construction Company, Ujamaa Construction Company, Infrastructure Energy Alternatives, Chase Bank Corp., US Architectural Metal and Glass Company, International Union of Operators - Local 150, Trim Trucking Company, Providence Bank, Lend Lease Company, Bowa Construction Company, Sterling Bay LLC, ProCore Technologies Company, and the Vanderlande Corporation. FactFinders LLC won the day's championship with a score of 58, led by Mr. Ken Webb, Sr, Captain; Runner up Team-WD Associates Co., with Mr. Lawrence Whitaker, Captain, which scored 66 overall]; in third place, tying with 66 overall, was Penn Services, LLC, with Mr. John Wilson, Team Captain.
The purpose of USMCA is to provide unique professional, educational, technical and consultive services to both the membership and the community at large. We endeavor to provide the best consultive services possible in the construction, environmental, building maintenance, architectural and engineering design, hospitality, training and general service industries. They serve as the advocacy agency for minority contractors and subcontractors through Chapters located in twenty-two (22) states and growing.
For information about membership and upcoming programs, go to the USMCA Website at https://usminoritycontractors.org.