Spectrum Health Partners with STEM Greenhouse Summer Program

June 29, 2021

Grand Rapids, Mich., June 28, 2021 Spectrum Health is teaming up with Grand Rapids-based nonprofit STEM Greenhouse on a summer curriculum for 50 students eager to improve their proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Last week, the Sankofa STEM Summer Academy began offering a five-week hands-on education at Davenport University to 50 underrepresented diverse middle school children in Grand Rapids. Sankofa, a word with West African origins, points to the importance of remembering the past as a way to protect the future.

“When we give more children of color access to science and math instruction, we greatly increase their chances of success in college and, ultimately, in a STEM career,’ said Spectrum Health Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Ovell Barbee. “Spectrum Health and all of West Michigan will benefit from a more diverse STEM community.”

In addition to providing a quality curriculum, the program is unique in that it eliminates many of the barriers that separate vulnerable children from a quality education and successful career, including transportation issues, language barriers and a lack of exposure to college.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, African-American youth are the least likely racial group to enter technology fields. Closing the gaps in STEM achievement through programs like the Sankofa STEM Summer Academy, which focuses on learning opportunities outside the standard classroom environment and representation of diverse mentors and educators, helps to encourage student interest in technology fields.

“All children deserve to have the academic foundation, mentoring and role models they need to succeed in STEM,” said STEM Greenhouse Founder and Executive Director Keli Christopher, Ph.D. “When I was a girl, I had no science or math teachers that looked like me. But fortunately, there were opportunities for me in high school to visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities where I could see a future for myself in STEM.”

More information about the Sankofa STEM Summer Academy is available here.

About Spectrum Health
Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan.

People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.



Beth Cranson
Media Relations Manager
Office: 616.391.2603
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