NAF’s STEM Imperative

NAF’s STEM Imperative

By JD Hoye, president of NAF

Students in the United States today gain unprecedented career opportunities at companies like Lenovo when they pursue education in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the demand for STEM workers grows at the third highest rate of all fields. STEM workers earn as much as 26 percent more than others and command higher salaries even when they work in non-STEM occupations. The current shortage of professionals with STEM degrees, combined with the growing diversity of our nation’s population, has provided bottom-line incentive to U.S. businesses seeking STEM workers to place a higher premium on gender, racial, and ethnic diversity at every level.

NAF students can fill this need. Together with our business and education partners, NAF is ensuring that there is a diverse, trained, and knowledgeable pipeline of future employees who are graduating from NAF academies in STEM fields ready to fill these positions.

Through NAF’s proven educational design, NAF academies prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s STEM leaders and innovators. We work with corporate and philanthropic partners who share our commitment to STEM and support our goals to:

  • Increase the number of students enrolled in NAF STEM-themed academies, with emphasis on underrepresented populations and underserved communities;
  • Infuse STEM proficiencies into all academy themes and build a STEM-enabled core to our educational design;
  • Expand work-based learning opportunities, especially paid internships, in STEM fields;
  • Implement a NAF college and career readiness credential that validates NAF students’ achievements in STEM and prepares them for future job opportunities, particularly with NAFTrack Certified Hiring partner companies,
  • Leverage the expertise of our partners to identify the STEM skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

NAF has been working with Lenovo to support these goals. Following the success of a 2012 pilot program in which students from five NAF academies created and launched apps, NAF, together with Lenovo, launched the Lenovo Scholar Network. In 2014-15, through the Lenovo Scholar Network, more than 400 students from 10 NAF academies participated in a mobile app development project. Using the MIT App Inventor service developed by the Center for Mobile Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a joint project of the MIT Media Lab and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Lenovo and NAF’s unique mobile app development reaches students regardless of their programming experience. NAF worked with MIT to develop teacher resources, including student outcomes mapped to national computer science standards, a scope and milestones for the project, and student rubric and reflection questions. MIT is also providing training and ongoing technical assistance support to teachers in using App Inventor.

Lenovo provided PC and tablet devices to each of the participating schools to aid the students and teachers in implementing the curriculum. The products include PC devices for student development and coding collaboration, and Lenovo tablet devices for the testing and viability of the mobile app. For many of the schools, having access to the technology allowed for greater student engagement in the project, and enrollment has increased for programming courses.

This spring, each of the Year One academies entered two apps into a national competition, and judges selected the five best apps from the group. The student teams who developed these apps won a trip to Anaheim, California, this week to be recognized at NAF Next, NAF’s annual conference, for their achievements, and we are excited to announce WHS Bowling from Washington High School of IT in Milwaukee, WI, school has been voted as the Lenovo Scholar Network Fan Favorite App.

Through programs like the Lenovo Scholar Network, companies can help shape the future workforce and ensure all students have a STEM-infused education.


  • 667 NAF academies using STEM-infused curricula
  • 315 STEM-specific NAF academies across 26 states, including DC
  • 44,491 students attend NAF Academies of Engineering, Information Technology, or Health Sciences
  • Hispanic and African-American (69%)
  • 69% qualify for free and reduced price lunch.
  • 96% of seniors graduated in 2014
  • 93% of graduates plan to go to college