UNCF Announces Second Class of UNCF® Stem Scholars Through $48M Investment from Fund II Foundation

 Five-year commitment will invest in and empower the next generation of African American STEM innovators and tech entrepreneurs

With previous grant support from Fund II Foundation totaling approximately $48 million, UNCF today announced its second cohort of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars (STEM Scholars). The 100 top-performing African American high school seniors, selected from across the nation, will each receive a total award package of up to $25,000 that includes scholarships and a stipend for STEM internships over five years. In addition, the program will provide wrap-around support critical to students’ academic success. The award will enable the students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at the college or university of their choosing while learning about innovation and startup tech entrepreneurship.

The second class of STEM Scholars will meet for a leadership and program orientation July 21-23 in Atlanta, where they will meet one another, map out academic and career goals, and hear from African American experts within the STEM fields. Fund II Foundation executive director Linda Wilson will also welcome the scholars at the orientation.  At the first event last year, Wilson said, “We at Fund II Foundation are heartened by the UNCF awardees. Their talents and relentless pursuit of excellence guarantee that our country will thrive as STEM innovators and leaders from diverse communities transform the economic landscape. We can’t wait to see what they do to improve all aspects of our world.”

This year’s cohort represents 26 states. The scholars will attend 72 different elite colleges and universities, including eleven scholars who will attend four Ivy League institutions. Eighteen scholars will attend 10 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), compared with twelve inaugural-class STEM scholars attending seven HBCUs. Of those, five are UNCF-supported HBCUs: Morehouse College, Spelman College, Oakwood University, Tuskegee University, Xavier University of Louisiana.

“UNCF is thrilled at the breadth and depth of our second Fund II - UNCF STEM Scholars cohort,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF President and CEO. “These students exemplify academic persistence and passion in their pursuit of excellence at the highest level. UNCF and Fund II Foundation are excited to see the tremendous impact they will have on their respective communities and industries in the future.”

“I was very excited and relieved upon receiving this scholarship, because it will help alleviate the financial pressure of funding my student contribution at Harvard,” said Kahlil Wassell, a Springfield, IL native. “This will help me to fulfill my goal of obtaining a degree in engineering, so that I may one day fulfill my dream of designing and operating interplanetary robotic space crafts.”

Fund II and UNCF have been focused on diversity and inclusion efforts, respectively, and in particular in the software industry. With African Americans making up less than five percent of the science and engineering workforce, and less than one percent of all tech startups, Fund II Foundation and UNCF joined together in 2015 to address this challenge. The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program will create a robust pipeline of African American students well prepared to have careers in the tech industry and to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

"The Fund II - UNCF STEM Scholars Scholarship is enabling me to pursue my passions in STEM at Harvard University. After making a scientific discovery that helps prevent leakages in offshore oil rigs, I was also named a Forbes Magazine, “30 under 30” awardee,” said Augusta Uwamanzu Nna. “Beyond the financial scholarship aspect, the support services and scholar-peer community UNCF provides and ensures that my maximum potential can be realized while in school and beyond. I plan to pursue a dual MD/PhD program after obtaining my undergraduate degree.”

Applications opened in December 2016 and closed in March, with nearly 2,500 students applying for the coveted awards, an increase of more than 200 applicants than last year. The second class of 100 STEM Scholars comprises 50 men and 50 women with an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.78. With regard to their academic aspirations, 50 percent of the scholars plan to pursue a degree in the sciences; nine percent will pursue technology; 39 percent, engineering; and two percent, mathematics.  Last year’s Cohort 1 Scholars are already leveraging the scholarship into great opportunities.

Cohort 1 Scholar and rising Stanford University sophomore, Eric Mason, remarked, “This scholarship has changed my life. I was forced to leave my home and be on my own at age 11. I had to grow up very quickly. I am very grateful for the STEM Scholarship and UNCF. Because of it, I was recently selected as one of the youngest interns ever to participate in the prestigious Goldman Sach’s summer internship program in NYC.”

The STEM Scholars Program will also expose students to the principles of startup tech entrepreneurship and offer them a unique opportunity to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures upon graduation. Scholars will receive $2,500 per academic year as freshmen and sophomores, $5,000 a year as juniors and seniors, an additional $5,000 for students whose academic programs require a fifth year, and a $5,000 stipend based on a STEM-related project/internship of the student’s interest.

“It has truly been an honor to have the opportunity to review so many outstanding applications for the selection of the 2017 STEM Scholars,” said UNCF STEM Director Dr. Chad Womack. “While we were fortunate to receive thousands of qualified applicants, the selected scholars are among the brightest, most academically gifted and talented minds in science, technology, engineering and math; and, represent the next generation of STEM innovators and entrepreneurs. UNCF extends congratulations to these scholars and their families and we look forward to supporting them as they achieve their college and career aspirations.”

“This scholarship will allow me to be able to finance my college education.  It will help me pursue a degree in Biology by giving me the tools and opportunities to learn from other STEM Scholars. Becoming a STEM Scholar gives me the network to meet others within the STEM field, especially biology, who could be lifelong mentors that I'll be able to learn from and will help me reach my goal in becoming an OB/GYN,” said Josyln Smith of Mullins, SC, who will major in science at Spelman College this fall.

Click to view the Class of 2017 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars listed by last name

Click to view the Class of 2017 Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars listed by home state/U.S. territory

UNCF annually awards more than $100 million via 10,000 scholarships each year. Of the 400 scholarship, internship and fellowship programs UNCF annually offers, 12 percent are STEM-related. The $48 million grant by Fund II Foundation marks the largest donation in UNCF’s 73-year history granted by an African American-led foundation.

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About Fund II Foundation 
Fund II Foundation is a charitable foundation, at the heart of which is a deep commitment to advance social change, create opportunity, respect and protect the environment, and preserve our culture. Fund II Foundation is focused on improving lives and opportunities for African American and other vulnerable populations. Fund II Foundation makes grants to 501(c)(3) public charities in five areas: 1) preservation of the African American experience; 2) safeguarding human dignity by giving a voice to the voiceless and promoting human rights; 3) improving environmental conservation and providing outdoor education that enables people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the numerous benefits of the great outdoors; 4) facilitating music education, particularly in primary and secondary schools, to nourish both the mind and the soul; and 5) sustaining the uniquely American values of entrepreneurship, empowerment, innovation and security. For more information on Fund II Foundation, visit www.fund2foundation.org.

About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”®. Learn more at UNCF.org. For continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, at @UNCF and #Fund2UNCFSTEMScholar.