STEM East Partnership Lands $4 Million in Golden LEAF Grants

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STEM East Partnership Lands $4 Million in Golden LEAF Grants

STEM East is pleased to announce that it’s coalition of partners was awarded approximately $4 million in grants from the Golden LEAF Foundation (Golden Leaf) to further expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in seven eastern North Carolina counties.

STEM East is pleased to announce that it’s coalition of partners was awarded approximately $4 million in grants from the Golden LEAF Foundation (Golden Leaf) to further expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in seven eastern North Carolina counties.

“Golden LEAF is proud to help prepare North Carolina’s youth for local career opportunities requiring STEM skills. Due to the growing demand for these skills in industries across the state, it is imperative that education and industry work together to develop the pool of talent needed to sustain existing and grow new business opportunities,” said Mark Sorrells, Golden LEAF Senior Vice President. “Supporting successful models of STEM education for schools located in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent counties of North Carolina is an important step in preparing our youth with skills to be successful in college and for jobs that pay above average wages in the regional labor market. ”

A coalition of school districts and employers partnered with the STEM East Network to pursue funding from Golden LEAF through its Community-Based Grants Initiative to advance education, workforce preparedness, and economic development efforts in eastern North Carolina. Craven, Duplin, Greene, Lenoir County, Pamlico and Onslow County Schools were awarded grants of up to $530,000 each over a two-year period to assist with the purchase of equipment, curriculum materials and professional development to seed and enhance comprehensive STEM programs to address identified industry needs.

Student success in the core content areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is essential for the development of a North Carolina workforce that can compete in the global economy. In response to this critical need, school districts collaborated with employers from eastern NC to develop career pathway initiatives designed to inspire and prepare the next generation of STEM professionals. In North Carolina, Golden LEAF is a leader in the effort to promote and sustain high quality STEM education aligned with industry’s employment needs. 

In this round of funding, the Foundation awarded grants to seven district STEM projects that met criteria laid out in Golden LEAF’s STEM Due Diligence Guide.

These criteria stipulated that the grantees:

  • Had established leadership and a shared vision for improving student opportunities to pursue career pathways that align with postsecondary STEM programs that included collaboration with community members (employers and parents);
  • Planned to use proven STEM curricula and work-based learning opportunities in an integrated way, with particular efforts toward reaching student populations traditionally underrepresented in STEM pathways;
  • Planned to provide high quality professional development for participating teachers, administrators, and others;
  • Planned to provide high school dual credit learning opportunities; and
  • Had developed internal capacity by sharing grant leadership and responsibilities among a large group of individuals, establishing sufficient administrative and financial support for the grant work, and planning for sustainability.

The Golden LEAF Foundation awarded the STEM East Network an additional grant of approximately $175,000 to complete a third-party evaluation consisting of three primary objectives: 1) enhance the evaluation capacity of the seven grantees; 2) continue the development of STEM assessment and capacity building tools for use by grantees to measure the impact of their work; and 3) complete a collective evaluation of the seven projects focusing on common outcomes.

The regional education grants provide unique opportunities to develop a workforce preparation continuum via career pathways that incorporate strategies that engage minds. The approximately $4 million in grants provides a proactive opportunity for employers, community leaders, and support organizations to partner with schools to create relevant educational programs aimed at addressing the skills gaps identified by area employers, market eastern North Carolina as an ideal location for new business opportunities, and assist industries in meeting corporate citizen goals. The Golden LEAF grant adds to the $14 million in external funding that has been secured by the STEM East Network since 2009. The funding has been used to expand STEM education in eastern North Carolina with the most tangible return being 60 STEM Centers established in schools throughout the region.

John D. Chaffee, NCEast Alliance President/CEO, stated “These announcements reflect the value of having STEM East embedded within the NCEast Alliance which emphasizes the importance of having community organizations and employers willing to collaborate with educators for the benefit of students. We are ecstatic that Golden LEAF has recognized the value of our model and the long term contribution to the economy of eastern North Carolina.” 

About STEM East

STEM East is connecting employers and educators through a growing network of private and public partners. The STEM East Network aligns innovative education programs with industry initiatives to support student career pathways, build a solid workforce and add considerable value for relocating and expanding industries.  Through the collaboration of multiple businesses, education districts, economic development organizations and foundations, state government departments, and many others, STEM East Network students engage in real-world learning modules and problem/project-based instruction that directly aligns with career opportunities in Eastern North Carolina. For more information visit

About the Golden LEAF Foundation

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The Foundation receives a portion of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit or call 888.684.8404. 

About the NCEast Alliance

The NCEast Alliance is a regional, public/private, not-for-profit, economic development corporation serving 28 counties with approximately 1.2 million residents within several small metropolitan and micropolitan areas in eastern North Carolina from the fringe of the Research Triangle to the Atlantic Coast. The Alliance provides community capacity building, marketing/lead generation, assists companies with site location and expansion evaluations and advocates for the development of eastern North Carolina. For more information on the NCEast Alliance, visit us at