The STEM Talent Pipeline: Investing in the the Magnet Program's Future

by Ted Jou '99

The Magnet Foundation has started a new STEM Talent Pipeline Program to draw and prepare students from underrepresented groups to attend the Magnet Program.  Starting this fall, 40 talented third graders will attend accelerated math classes after-school or on weekends at the new Art of Problem Solving Academy in Gaithersburg, with the support of the Magnet Foundation and your donations.

The story of the Pipeline Program begins in 2015, when the Montgomery County Board of Education hired consultants to review the County’s choice and special academic programs. The March 2016 report recommended that special programs like the Blair Magnet should seek to enroll a more diverse population.

In the wake of these recommendations, the Magnet Foundation’s Board of Directors brainstormed ways to improve the diversity of the Magnet program without making changes to the Magnet’s high admissions standards and its unique curriculum.  The Foundation had always included in its mission statement a desire to “reach out to the broader community to prepare and attract a more diverse and highly qualified student applicant base,” but it was now time to take that mission more seriously.

Samir Paul, Class of ’06, who is now a computer science teacher in the Magnet Program, learned that the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) was planning to open an academy in Montgomery County to provide advanced math enrichment for students from elementary through high school.  Paul reached out to another alum, Phyllis Xu ’05, who works for AoPS in San Diego, and made contact with the founder of AoPS, Richard Rusczyk.  Paul and Rusczyk began to discuss a partnership between AoPS and the Magnet Foundation to teach advanced mathematics to a diverse group of elementary-age students in Montgomery County. As the project began to take shape, Paul gave it a name: the STEM Talent Pipeline Program. 

AoPS generously agreed to offer half-price tuition to students in the program, and the Foundation took the responsibility of finding students for the Pipeline Program. At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Paul reached out to second-grade teachers across Montgomery County, asking for their help in identifying talented low-income students, and students from groups typically underrepresented in STEM fields. Parents were invited to submit applications, and from over 150 applicants, the Foundation identified 40 students that were good candidates for the AoPS classes.

AoPS Academy
The AoPS Academy opened its doors in Gaithersburg (on Washingtonian Blvd., near Rio) this summer, and the Pipeline students will enroll this fall. Of the 40 students selected, more than a third are on free or reduced lunch, and the Foundation is raising money to help cover the costs of their tuition. The reduced price is $750 for the school year, or about $25 per weekly class. The Foundation’s goal is to keep these students enrolled in the program from third grade through fifth grade, to hopefully inspire a life-long love of math and science and improve these students’ chances of gaining admission to the competitive middle school magnet programs and the Blair Magnet.

If you are interested in sponsoring a student, or just paying for a few classes, you can make a tax-deductible donation online – for larger donations, or if you have questions, please contact the Foundation directly at pipeline@mbhsmagnet.org.