SMASH STEM Program Launching in Illinois in Partnership with Illinois Tech, SIU Carbondale and CPASS Foundation


January 24, 2019


Kim Bardakian, 510.499.5723,

First State-Wide Program Model for Free World-Class STEM Program

for Students from Underrepresented Communities

Chicago, IL (January 24, 2019) – SMASH, the signature STEM education program of the Kapor Center, announces SMASH Illinois, its first statewide initiative program partnership with Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), Southern Illinois University (SIUC) Carbondale, and the Creating Pathways and Access for Student Success (CPASS) Foundation.

The inaugural group of students accepted into SMASH Illinois will live for five weeks during the summer of 2019 on the Illinois Tech and SIU Carbondale campuses and will all initially come from the greater Chicago area, Carbondale, IL, and the greater East St. Louis, IL area.

The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has worked tirelessly to promote and ensure an equal education for all Illinois students of color through our legislative efforts to restore funding for STEM initiatives like the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program administered by the CPASS Foundation because we know a great education can be the solution to many disparities in opportunities for our communities,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford. “We want our students to be competitive participants in the STEM labor force, especially in the rising healthcare tech field, and I’m excited to be a part of the launch of SMASH Illinois, a wonderful new state-wide STEM initiative, and continuing the momentum and investment to increase the number of underrepresented students of color in STEM fields and careers.

The SMASH Illinois program will focus on training scholars with core STEM skills at the intersection of technology, innovation and equity in health to empower students from underrepresented communities to pursue and persist in the STEM fields and excel in the rising “HealthTech” industry.

SMASH’s flagship program, SMASH Academy, is a three-year, free-of-cost, residential college preparatory program targeting high school students from traditionally underrepresented communities interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) careers. Beginning the summer after 9th grade, SMASH scholars take rigorous science, tech and math classes that will supplement their learning during the academic year.

Our community of students, staff, and scholars here at Illinois Tech is very excited to be joining SMASH Illinois,” said Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, Provost and SVP of Academic Affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology.  “This visionary program has demonstrated that it is possible to develop effective programs to motivate and ready high school students from all backgrounds to excel in STEM in college.  At Illinois Tech, we are committed to ensuring access and success for all students in all of our academic programs.

SIU Carbondale is delighted to partner with so many outstanding organizations in providing a place for young people to learn more about the amazing career possibilities in STEM fields,” said Dr. Meera Komarraju, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “SIU has a long and rich history of providing educational opportunities to underrepresented students and we have an exceptional base of STEM related programs and faculty to engage these young minds.  We are grateful to be a part of the SMASH Academy and I am confident our program will make a difference in preparing future leaders in science and technology.

US News and World Report has called SMASH “perhaps the most ambitious program to encourage African American and Latino students in STEM fields.” For over 15 years, SMASH has provided hundreds of students with access to rigorous STEM coursework and a top-level support network of mentors, professionals and peers working to close the achievement gap. The launch of SMASH Illinois is in line with Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein’s $40 million investment pledge that includes expanding SMASH programming across the nation.

Health disparities between people of color and caucasians are well-documented. Closing this gap will come from directly addressing biases and changing who gets inspired to develop the next generation of health care tech tools,” said Freada Kapor Klein, Founder of SMASH and Partner at Kapor Capital. “We always talk about the importance of lived experience in solving real problems.  By bringing SMASH to Illinois, we can further bridge the STEM diversity gap, inspire true innovation and make the healthcare IT industry more equitable.

SMASH helps unlock untapped talent through a rigorous and culturally responsive education that will strengthen students’ STEM skills, equip them with a network and expose them to 21st century careers,” said Eli Kennedy, CEO of SMASH. “By 2020, 1.4M STEM jobs will go unfilled in America. With the right STEM tools, resources and networks, we can empower young people to fill these roles and become the future health leaders and change agents in their communities.

SMASH’s comprehensive and research-driven approach boasts significant results. A longitudinal analysis of SMASH alumni data reveal the following:

  • 100% of SMASH Academy alumni graduate from high school
  • 91% of SMASH Academy Alumni graduate college within 5 years
  • SMASH Academy Alumni graduate with a STEM degree 2x higher than the national average.
  • The return on initial investment in lifetime earnings is 96x for each SMASH alumni who earns a STEM degree, with each student projected to earn $3.6M in their lifetime

CPASS Foundation is excited about the announcement of this preeminent state-wide STEM program for Illinois high school students of color and the phenomenonal group of partners who have joined together with us to invest in the future of our children,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Board Chair. “STEM fields will be key drivers of the global economy for decades to come, and it’s urgent that we start STEM education early and make it accessible to all Illinois communities. SMASH Illinois will join other educational initiatives that will prioritize the inclusion of often forgotten, minority communities in STEM fields and careers and will foster the talent of the future for our communities, state, and country.

The deadline for SMASH Illinois applications is March 1, 2019. Eligibility requirements can be found here:

For partnership opportunities and questions, contact Site Director Tracie Screven at


SMASH Illinois Consortium

SMASH: SMASH is the signature education program of the Kapor Center. Launched in 2004 by Freada Kapor Klein, SMASH is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.

Illinois Tech and SIUC join the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Davis, Morehouse College, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Wayne State University as a university partners and hosts of SMASH.

Illinois Institute of Technology: Illinois Institute of Technology: Illinois Tech is a private, technology-focused research university. Illinois Tech is the only university of its kind in Chicago, and its Chicago location offers students access to the world-class resources of a great global metropolis. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, science, architecture, business, design, human sciences, applied technology, and law. One of 21 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), Illinois Tech provides an exceptional education centered on active learning, and its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Illinois Tech uniquely prepares students to succeed in professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale: Founded in 1869 as the state’s second teachers’ college – with a dozen academic departments and an inaugural class of 143 – SIU Carbondale is the flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University System. It is a strong, diverse, student-centered research-intensive and comprehensive public university that is classified among Doctoral Universities: with Higher Research Activity, R2, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Additionally, the university recently earned the prestigious 2015 community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. That designation reflects a longstanding commitment to service and outreach; in 2013 alone, 237,000 residents of central and southern Illinois benefited from 578 initiatives with more than 3,000 community partners.

Creating Pathways and Access For Student Success Foundation: CPASS Foundation is a diversity initiative administered through a public-private partnership with a mission to introduce STEM health careers to Illinois middle, high and college students who are traditionally underrepresented in these Professions. CPASS is the successor of the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program (CAHMCP), a groundbreaking initiative founded in 1979 by Mr. John Bradley and the late Dr. Reggie Jones at the Illinois Institute of Technology. CAHMCP has been instrumental in bringing STEM education to underserved communities; CPASS will build on that legacy through expanded programming and action locally and statewide.