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Airbnb Co-Founder Donates $1 Million to Boston Latin Academy in STEM Week Event
On Monday, October 21, Airbnb co-founder and 2001 Boston Latin Academy graduate Nathan Blecharczyk and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Blecharczyk, announced they will make a $1 million donation to the school. The announcement was made during a Massachusetts STEM Week 2019 event with computer science students.
Airbnb co-founder and Boston Latin Academy alumnus Nathan Blecharczyk addresses students at BLA on Monday, October 21, 2019.
The donation will be used to create two new computer labs and fund STEM education initiatives at BLA. The Blecharczyks also announced that they will match the dollar amount of any future gifts made to the school, up to a total of $1 million, with the goal of inspiring future donations to create a sustainable source of supplemental funds.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius were on hand as Nathan Blecharczyk spoke about his experience as a student at BLA and the importance of learning skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
“Elizabeth and I are grateful for the education we received — in my case, right here at Boston Latin Academy. This school not only challenged me as a student, but it’s also where I learned the fundamental good habits that have propelled me to success,” Blecharczyk said. “Through our support today, we want to give BLA and its teachers additional resources to open the doors of our rapidly growing tech economy. We hope our commitment will inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators right here at BLA to see and invest in their full potential.”
"Nathan's success story is proof of the incredible talent we have in the Boston Public Schools," said Mayor Walsh. "His donation will make a real impact in the lives of our students, and we're grateful for his dedication to BPS. We are proud that Nathan has chosen to invest in our schools, making an impact on our world and on our students."
During STEM Week, BPS is hosting dozens of small- and large-group STEM activities for students of all ages both inside and outside of school, culminating with the district’s first-ever STEM Discovery Expo this Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Center. For a list of BPS STEM Week events open to families and the public, visit bostonpublicschools.org/stem.
“It’s inspiring for our students to see a BPS graduate achieve the kind of incredible success Mr. Blecharczyk has had,” said Superintendent Cassellius. “It’s even more inspiring for them to see him return to his roots to share his success in a way that creates more learning opportunities for them. His generosity and example will encourage our students to continue pursuing their own dreams, and hopefully encourage other STEM industries in our own backyard to explore creative partnership opportunities.”
The second-annual Massachusetts STEM Week is a statewide effort to boost the interest, awareness and ability for all students to envision themselves in STEM education and employment opportunities, and compliment the formal instruction that happens in schools everyday.
This year’s STEM Week theme is “See Yourself in STEM,” with the goal of encouraging women, people of color, people with disabilities, English learners, and others who are underrepresented in STEM careers to engage in STEM fields.
“The Boston School Committee is extraordinarily grateful to Mr. Blecharczyk for this major gift,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “As a school system and as a city, we need to do all we can to show our students that they can learn and succeed in STEM, entrepreneurship, and innovation, which is so important in today’s quickly changing economy.”
Included among the numerous STEM Week activities occurring in BPS are:
- Inspire STEM Together Event: The Boston Private Industry Council and the BoSTEM initiative are hosting “Inspire STEM Together,” a discussion panel with several current and former BPS students who are emerging STEM leaders.
- Artificial Intelligence Course: On Monday, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, and Vertex CEO Jeff Leiden visited the Eliot K-8 School in the North End to observe a course on artificial intelligence technology, taught in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab and i2 Learning. The course helps students see how artificial intelligence plays an important role within a number of scientific areas even outside of computer science, such as medicine and space exploration.
- STEM Learning Labs: The General Electric (GE) Foundation is holding ribbon-cutting events for new STEM learning labs at the John D. O’Bryant School for Math and Science in Roxbury and the Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Monday morning’s event at the Murphy included members of the Boston Celtics. Since 2016, the GE Foundation has supported numerous STEM initiatives in BPS, including a coding bootcamp and summer internships.
- BPS STEM Discovery Expo: This Saturday, October 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., BPS will hold its first-ever STEM Discovery Expo at the Reggie Lewis Center, 1350 Tremont Street, Roxbury, which is the same venue as the BPS College and Career Fair that will be held at the same time. More than two dozen Boston-area businesses and educational organizations will have hands-on activities and information for students to engage in STEM learning. Those businesses and organizations include the New England Society of Black Engineers, UMass Boston, Mass. Audubon, City Sprouts, Opti, Northeastern University STEM, Harvard University, MIT Lincoln Lab, the Mass. Maritime Academy, the New England Aquarium, Microsoft Stores, the American Heart Association, Wentworth Institute, the U.S. Army, and more.
Boston Latin Academy Headmaster Chimdi Uchendu (foreground) with Nathan Blecharczyk, his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Blecharczyk, and his parents, Sheila and Paul Blecharczyk.
In addition, there are dozens of smaller events involving groups of students and community or business partners.
- Students at the Lee K-8 School in Dorchester will receive a visit from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and then receive a classroom lesson on green infrastructure and the importance of water as a natural resource from Opti, a local green energy company.
- Students from the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown are visiting Courageous Sailing on Boston Harbor for science enrichment lessons involving boating.
- Students from the King K-8 School in Dorchester are visiting the Cabot Corporation in the Seaport District to learn about chemistry work.
- Students from TechBoston Academy in Dorchester and Blackstone Elementary in the South End are visiting the Apple Store to participate in a workshop on augmented reality.
- Students in The Young People Project at Excel High School in South Boston will offer coding classes for elementary students in nearby BPS schools throughout the year.