Volunteers build STEM center for low-income Oklahoma City students

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Three buildings near an Oklahoma City elementary school have been transformed in order to focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

More than 100 volunteers from Devon, the Home Depot Foundation, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and even some teachers spent their day transforming three buildings around Mark Twain Elementary into a creative space for kids.

“All of these partners have come together to really create impact here at Mark Twain,” Devon Director of Community Relations Christina Rehkop said.

Home Depot volunteers are turning the old Kiwanis building into a workshop. Another building became a STEM lab for pre-K students.

“When we heard about this and heard about maybe starting a new generation of innovators, it was an immediate buy-in for us,” Mitch Rusk, Home Depot store manager, said.

Famous all-star major league baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr. is a main partner in this endeavor. His foundation spent the last three years building 60 STEM  centers around the country.

“Everything looks the same so that when a child moves to a different building, they feel like they’re home again and they know what’s going on because it’s hard to change schools from year to year,” Joe Rosso, with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, said.

Officials say that is extremely important for students at Mark Twain Elementary, which marks a 100% free and reduced lunch rate. Organizers say projects like these make sure that students have equal opportunities at school.

“We expect kids by the time they finish kindergarten to have already been exposed to coding,” Dr. Sean McDaniel, Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, said.

“Kids are going to be going places that they’ve never thought they could go before. It’s totally amazing and it’s bigger than I could ever imagine,” Principal of Mark Twain Elementary Sandy Phillips said.

A collaborative space built by a team of volunteers within the community to create a future generation of innovators.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation will also build a STEM center in Norman.

Each school is looking for sponsors to adopt them. Right now, 12 schools still need funding.

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