Google grant to help San Jose elementary school STEM program


By Harvey I. Barkin

SAN JOSE – Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (CCSCC) announced last March 2 receipt of a $325,000 grant from Google, Inc. to help improve Catholic Charities’ Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning’s (CORAL’s) Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) program at Anne Darling Elementary School.

Catholic Charities initiated CORAL in 2003 as a K-8 expanded program that focuses on improving academic performance with literacy and homework support.

CCSCC CEO Gregory Kepferle said in his welcome address that Anne Darling is but one of 22 sites in San Jose that helps 2,500 students every day. And that about 119 students every day at Anne Darling are involved in after-school programs like the Tech Challenge at the Tech Museum. The CORAL program also helps students at other San Jose Unified schools and Franklin-McKinley School District.

CCSCC Program Director America Gomez explained that some of these students are located at the most disadvantaged areas of San Jose. The school’s demographics list 80.3 percent of them are Latino, 86.2 percent are socio-economically disadvantaged and 52.6 percent are English learners. Gomez explained that there are five CORAL After-school instructors who stay with those enrolled until 6 pm.

Of the 119 students enrolled in CORAL at Anne Darling, 45 percent are female; 55 percent, male and 92 percent are Latino.

Kepferle also said that because of CORAL, their reading level is now up to 42 percent, English learners have improved by 28 percent and absenteeism has been reduced from 30 to 35 percent.

He also said that they’ve seen 65 percent increase in interest on STEM topics, 60 percent increase in STEM abilities and 55 percent increase in interest on STEM careers.

Kepferle added that Google’s was the largest single corporate grant for Catholic charities to date. And with the tools from Google’s support, initiate a new STEM curriculum that will eventually be adapted at the other CORAL sites.

Google’s Adrian Schurr said with the grant, the school can open new computer labs and get the kids up to speed coding. He also said they may soon be making and playing with robots soon. He invited the kids to a future tour of Google’s grounds. He added that 60 percent of all economic growth is due to scientific progress and it starts with STEM.

Anne Darling Principal Ron Hammond chimed in that diversity provides better products and innovations.

District 3 City Council member Raul Peralez told the students that he had a degree in Math and was a police officer. But before that, he studied in the STEM program. He told the kids that they can go to the moon with STEM and that there was more computing power in their cell phones than there was in the first computer that was as big as a room.

Mayor Sam Liccardo told the kids they were the future and that somebody else had to lead the city when he’s out.