Disney donates $1 million to youth STEM programs in celebration of 'Black Panther'

BURBANK, Calif. (WLS) -- In celebration of the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios' "Black Panther," The Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to 12 Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) across the country, including in Chicago.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use this one time grant to further develop its existing national STEM curriculum, and establish new STEM Centers of Innovation in 12 communities across the country. The curriculum and new centers will serve and inspire kids and teens, with an emphasis in the following communities: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Harlem, NY; Hartford, CT; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Watts, CA.

"Not only is this investment in the lives of these young people, but really it's an investment in the country as a whole," said Mimi LeClair, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.

The donation will help expand Boys & Girls Clubs of America's youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, supporting the high-tech skills that were a major theme in the plot of Black Panther and are essential in helping youth succeed.

"In order to compete once we get out of school, these young people really need to have a solid background in STEM and compete not only for jobs, but really to compete in the global economy," LeClair said.

Chicago has 23 Boys and Girls clubs across the city. Through its STEM program, kids conduct science experiments, do lab work and go on fun field trips exposing them to STEM in the real world. LeClair said Disney's investment will help influence young kids and the generations to come.

"These young people then go home and talk about it to their siblings, they share this information with their classmates and they get excited about it, and this is what we want. We want these types of programs to be inspiring and motivational and fun," LeClair said.

The Boys & Girls Club of America will also use the grant to offer more robust hands-on programming to inspire kids to pursue careers in technology.

"Marvel Studios' Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making and has become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths," said Robert A. Iger Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. "It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it's fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want."

Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Centers of Innovation provide youth with hands-on, advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration, including 3-D printers, robotics, high-definition video production and conferencing equipment. In addition, a fully dedicated STEM expert will offer individual and group support, using real-world applications to help Club members develop their STEM skills and critical thinking.

"From hands-on interactive programs to critical thinking, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to providing thousands of young people with the tools they need to prepare for a great future," said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "Thanks to Disney's support, we can expand our outreach and allow more youth to find their passions and discover STEM careers."

Helping children and teens learn new skills for the future, like STEM, is a focus area of The Walt Disney Company's social responsibility efforts. The company is dedicated to delivering comfort, happiness, opportunity and inspiration to children and families around the world.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC7.
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