SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – One nonprofit in Springfield has earned a shot at $1million after not giving up during tough times. The Discovery Center is being recognized as one of the top 20 most promising educational institutions in the country.
With that honor comes a chance to receive a $1 million grant from Forbes and the Center for Education Reform.
Adam Toth, a parent who takes his kids to school at the science center, was ecstatic to hear the news when it broke in early November.
“I think what Rob [Blevins] and the team of ‘Incredibles’ have done has been very worthy of any award that they’re up for,” Toth said, referring to the nonprofit’s executive director.
Toth’s children have been enrolled in Discovery School since the pandemic began.
“We were looking for the safest place for our kids,” Toth said. “But, also, we were looking for a place that could focus on STEAM education, math and science.”
His children learn at their own pace through experiments and problem-solving.
“It’s great whenever your kids come home in the evening, and they’ve had an enjoyable day, and they tell you that it was the best day ever,” Toth said. “Or you ask them if they liked school that day, and they tell you no, they didn’t like it because they loved it.”
The Discovery Center was one of only two science centers in North America to offer services to kids during the lockdown.
“We weren’t going to let them become victims of the COVID slide,” Blevins said.
Blevins says his team is a semifinalist for the “STOP” award. The honor goes to an individual or group who offers an education that is sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless.
“I think it’s because of the way we’ve responded and adapted and kept going when many others didn’t,” Blevins said. “That’s what [Forbes] is looking for. They’re looking for these people that just push forward, and I think that’s why we’re a semifinalist. Selfishly, I think I love the recognition it gives to the incredible team underneath me, and everything they’ve done and the sacrifices they’ve made to make all of these programs possible.”
This past year, Blevins and his team also offered free childcare for healthcare workers and first responders, learning support care for students in Springfield Public Schools’ hybrid learning model and a tutoring program.
“When you look at that national recognition, they’ve looked at hundreds of applications, and they said, ‘Yeah. Your team is awesome. They have gone above and beyond to help kids,” Blevins said. “That makes me feel really good.”
Forbes will pick five finalists in December. Whoever wins will get the award in January in Switzerland. Blevins says Forbes and the Center for Education Reform get to decide how the money will be used.