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Philadelphia Celebrates Its Selection as a 'US 2020' City For STEM Education

By John McDevitt and Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia has been selected in a national competition as one of seven cities to encourage youth mentorship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics ("STEM").

The announcement was made today at the White House science fair.

"Please give it up for the City of Philadelphia and our mentorship program," Mayor Michael Nutter said later at a Franklin Institute ceremony marking Philadelphia's selection.  The mayor said he is proud the city has been selected in the competition, known as US 2020.

The goal of this new initiative -- fostering the next generation of scientists.

No doubt the Franklin Institute knows how to get kids pumped about science.

"You think about all the men and women who transformed the world through science, technology, engineering and math, they tell you the same thing every time. I had that spark, I was curious as a kid, and someone lit that flame," said Frederic Bertley, Senior Vice President of the Franklin Institute.

The other cities selected are Allentown, Pa.; Chicago; Research Triangle Park, NC; Indianapolis; San Francisco; and Wichita, Kan.

"US 2020 is a response to President Obama's call to generate large, innovative solutions to our nation's STEM education challenges, thereby increasing the number of young people -- particularly female, low-income, and minority youth -- engaged in STEM learning opportunities," Nutter explained.

"Connect folks who are already successful in those fields with kids. And give them the insight, and help them into who those field," said Dr. Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer.

And ready to provide mentors to young people like Carmen Williams.

Carmen Williams was once a high school dropout.  She is now three months away from a high-school diploma and hopes to get a college degree.  She is in the STEM mentorship program, and helped turn an abandoned house in North Philadelphia into an  energy-efficient home.

"That work site has become an important place to me this year," she said.  "It's where I learned leadership skills and how to work with a team.  It's also where I gained the confidence I needed to pursue my career goals, and it gave me the opportunity to work with experts and innovators in the field of green building technology."

Philadelphia's US 2020 coalition consists of 50 STEM partners.

So a big announcement for Philadelphia, but an even bigger one for Allentown, Pennsylvania.

That city is one of three US2020 grand prize winners, meaning not only will that coalition get support in organizing the mentors and mentees, but Allentown will share in $1 million in financial support.

The long-term goal is to mobilize one million mentors nationwide -- corporations, educational institutions, and others in the STEM fields -- by the year 2020.

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