Back to School With Purpose and Perspectives
It’s back-to-school time and students across the country are transitioning into their school-day routines. No matter how far away I get from my own school days, this time of year always feels exciting and full of possibility.
I realize, though, that this outlook is a privilege not all students enjoy. Many lower-income students face education disparities, including less-experienced instructors and fewer educational resources. For some, simply getting to school involves a dangerous commute across violence-ridden neighborhoods. Students in high-poverty communities face particular inequalities when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities. These so-called STEM deserts put students at a significant disadvantage when they are ready to enter the workforce or pursue higher education.
As a research-driven company, Lundbeck is committed to developing the next generation of scientific leaders, and we believe that all students deserve access to robust STEM education. That’s why we are so passionate about our partnership with Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy, a charter school on Chicago’s South Side. It was developed as a model for public school STEM education, and the school plays an important role in meeting the educational and social needs of students from underserved communities.
For the past 8 years, Lundbeck has partnered with Perspectives to enhance learning opportunities and cultivate students’ interest in STEM careers. Our support funded infrastructure improvements and a new science lab that provides students a variety of hands-on learning opportunities, including an advanced placement chemistry class.
We understand, though, that equipping these students for success requires more than Bunsen burners, beakers and suitable lab facilities. Many Perspectives students face intense challenges in their daily lives. One out of 10 is coping with housing instability—meaning they are homeless, move frequently or live in overcrowded homes. Many receive free breakfast and lunch at school each day. And most do not have the resources to purchase school supplies.
To help students overcome this basic barrier to learning, our employees annually organize a Perspectives School Supply Drive. These are employees using their own money and time to purchase everything from markers and notebooks to calculators. They do it because of the deep connection we all feel to the Perspectives mission; and also because we understand that empowering a student with a new backpack and their very own supplies can boost confidence and position that child for success.
We are a company committed to helping people living with brain disorders, and so we are acutely aware of the role emotional health plays in a person’s quality of life. We understand that students likely won’t achieve academic success if they are struggling with behavioral health issues. That’s why we also proudly support a health education program for Perspectives freshmen that focusing on mental health, sexual health and substance abuse.psychiatric disorders.
Our partnership with Perspectives extends beyond the classroom, and later this fall we’ll welcome a group of students to our US headquarters as part of our annual internship program. This is the sixth year we have hosted interns, and during their time here the students will be paired with a mentor and learn about the process of researching, developing and providing medicine to people with neurological and psychiatric disorders. It’s an opportunity for Lundbeck employees to share their own real-world STEM experiences and nurture students’ interest in STEM-related careers. In addition, we annually award several $5,000 college scholarships to high-achieving seniors to help pave the way for their college education. And to walk the talk, many Lundbeck employees march side-by-side with Perspectives students at their annual Peace March every summer.
Finally, Lundbeck makes an ongoing financial donation to the school through our IT Buy-Back Program, where employees may purchase used devices with the funds going toward enhancing classroom learning to inspire students toward meaningful careers in the sciences. To date, this employee-created initiative has generated more than $20,000 in donations to Perspectives.
These various efforts—while significant—certainly will not solve the nationwide problem of STEM deserts. They do, however, have an impact on students’ lives and learning. Here at Lundbeck we like to say that we see the person behind the disease. When it comes to our relationship with Perspectives, we see the student behind the need, and the possibility and potential in each one.
Lundbeck' s Peter Anastasiou with the 2018 Lundbeck STEM Scholarship recipients.