MPS & community partners hope "Hidden Figures" will inspire students

By Bobby Tanzilo /

Have you seen "Hidden Figures" yet?

This film shares the previously untold of three African-American women – brilliant mathematicians who were key to NASA’s launch of John Glenn into orbit in 1962.

The Oscar-nominated film has been getting great reviews, and the first person to recommend it to me is a Milwaukee Public Schools principal, who sees the manifold importance of the film.

One of the important lessons of the movie is the kind of encouragement it can offer to all students, but especially girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM) subjects.

With that in mind, the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation is partnering with Beta Alpha Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Marcus Theatres and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, to send 10,000 MPS students and Boys & Girls Club members to see the film.

But some money is still required to make this happen, and the Foundation and its partners are appealing to the community for financial support to raise another $53,000 to fund the trips, including reduced-price tickets, transportation and educational materials to continue the discussion and study in the classroom before and after seeing "Hidden Figures."

Beta Alpha Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, a fraternal organization comprising prominent African-American community leaders, has already collected more than $52,000 for this program. Marcus Theatres has pledged $50,000 in generous in-kind support, the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors has pledged $10,000 and MPS employees have chipped in more than $2,200 in personal donations.

"So many young people simply do not see career opportunities for themselves, especially in math and the sciences," said Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc., and a member of Beta Alpha Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

"Students are inspired when they can see what others have done and can envision themselves following in those footsteps. The first step on a career path is a vision."

MPS has made a strong commitment to STEM offerings across the district, says Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.

"MPS is already a leader in STEM education," said Dr. Driver. "We have the largest Project Lead The Way footprint of any urban district in the country. We are excited and appreciative of the community support we have received so far – we want students to see that STEM careers are real options regardless of gender or race."

To make a contribution, visit the MPS Foundation website.

Milwaukee Biz Blog: Investment in STEM education could pay off for Wisconsin

This past summer, a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) survey reported 70 percent of top business executives in Wisconsin expressed difficulty in finding quality workers. This has been a persistent trend in their recent economic outlook surveys, and has fueled a larger debate over whether the Badger State is held back by a “skills gap,” where open jobs go unfilled because the labor force lacks the necessary qualifications.