Digital Alliance Aims to Boost STEM Education, Economy in Illinois

 |   Raamel Mitchell, Public Affairs and Citizenship Director of Microsoft

Raamel Mitchell

When the question is how to boost education and economic development, a public-private partnership can be the answer.

In the spirit of collaboration and problem-solving, Microsoft and the town of Normal, Illinois, will work together on an alliance to support digital literacy, entrepreneurship and youth involvement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The alliance will also promote and establish initiatives focused on economic development in the region.

Beyond serving Normal, which has a population of about 55,000, a broader goal of joining forces is to develop the workforce in nearby Bloomington and greater Central Illinois as well.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said, “This alliance with Microsoft will help provide both youths and adults in our community with access to the tools they need to join or rejoin our local workforce. It should also be particularly encouraging to entrepreneurs who wish to plant the seeds of their new businesses in an exciting and technology-fertile community.”

A key aim of the alliance is to promote increased digital literacy. For this, residents will have access to online resources including Microsoft’s Digital Literacy curriculum and the Microsoft Imagine Academy training program.

Beyond that, Microsoft’s BizSpark program, Community Connections program and Microsoft Azure services will also help foster entrepreneurship by offering free software and training for qualifying business startups.

To build community, Microsoft and the town will host events featuring noted entrepreneurs and STEM experts. Coming to the Normal Theater in October will be the documentary “Big Dream,” which follows seven young women as they break barriers and overcome personal challenges in pursuit of STEM careers.

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