UScellular & JASON Learning team up to train next-generation mobile workforce

Custom curriculum challenges students to create a “safe space” for families facing natural disasters

Milwaukee Public Schools & UScellular

Ask Jeremiah Holiday, chief academic officer of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), what his district looks for in a corporate partner and he’ll tell you: equity.

Specifically, “access to culturally relevant and responsive resources that enable students to appreciate the academic and career opportunities available to them.”

That’s what MPS found when it joined up with JASON Learning and UScellular. For its part, UScellular, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, discovered an opportunity to give back to one of its markets, while leveraging the power of STEM education to build a robust pipeline of future communications leaders, a triple win for the school district, for students and for the company.

The Challenge

A leading wireless carrier and a major employer, UScellular knows that staying competitive requires a localized pipeline of highly skilled workers.

That means partnering with local school districts to provide opportunities for more students, especially those from underserved areas.

In the case of the Milwaukee Public Schools that meant working with the team at JASON Learning, in partnership with MPS administrators, to develop an experiential curriculum and real-life career pathways for hard-to-reach students and their families.

Unlike previous corporate partners, Holiday says, JASON and UScellular worked closely with district leaders and the community to create a program that was “fully representative of the student population.”

The result was a free custom curriculum and multipart design challenge accessible to every student, with the benefit of training and support for staff.

The Solution

The Connected Storm Sanctuary is a creative space for students in Chicago, Ill., Milwaukee, Wisc. and Tulsa, Okla., to design technology-based solutions to natural disasters.

The experiential program, created by JASON Learning, in partnership with UScellular, challenges middle and high school students to prototype mobile-based solutions used by families to connect before, during and after natural disasters.

Program administrators say they chose natural disasters because weather problems are something to which nearly every student can relate.

Drawing on a combination of logic, imagination, and intuition, students collaborate to solve real-world problems through design thinking. Participating students acquire a deep understanding of mobile technologies and networks, gain insights into the needs of local communities in the wake of disaster, and nurture and apply job-level STEM knowledge and skills.

A special Day of Design gave students an opportunity to share their solutions with associates at UScellular and JASON Learning before having their prototypes evaluated by a panel of judges.

The organizations planned to extend this challenge to students in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold.

Through JASON Learning’s experience with virtual and digital platforms, the Connected Storm Sanctuary challenge is also available online. This ensures classrooms throughout the country, both at school and at home, can continue to gain from educational and interactive STEM content.

Says Holiday, “The work we are doing with JASON Learning, with support from UScellular, really aligns with what we need to do with our boys and girls to ensure that they are college, career and community ready.”

“It’s fantastic to be able to combine our passion for community impact and volunteer opportunities for our associates with support for local STEM talent and curious students.”

Deirdre Drake

Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer, UScellular

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