Given the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, the Walt Disney Company announced on Monday a $1 million donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in hopes of expanding the organization’s STEM programming for kids. As part of the donation, the BGCA will build a STEM Center of Innovation located in Oakland, California, a location crucial to the film’s mythology.
“Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making and has become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company. “It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want.”
As well as contributing to the development of the Oakland STEM center, the BGCA will use the grant to establish or improve STEM centers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Harlem, and Philadelphia, among others. In total, over a dozen cities will reap the benefits.
These types of investments can be a huge game changer; not just for the BGCA, but for the STEM industry as well. Currently, 73 percent of scientists and engineers are white, with only seven percent are Black or Latino. The small number of minority students entering into STEM is even more disappointing when you consider that there’s no discernible difference between demographics when it comes to interest in the field. With the help of Disney, the BGCA might be able to help push those numbers in a better, more diverse direction.