Generous alum funds STEM lab at Riverview Grade School

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EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A Biotech entrepreneur and philanthropist is funding science and math opportunities for the students at his grade school alma mater.

Kim Blickenstaff, Executive Director of Tandem Diabetes Care in San Diego, donated $300,000 to Riverview Grade School, a school of 225 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Daren Lowery, superintendent and principal of Riverview Grade School, said Blickenstaff, who graduated in 1966, approached him several years ago when he was in town from California.

“He lived in California and asked if he could stop by and see his old stomping grounds. We met a couple of different times with some of his colleagues, and we had a meeting with teachers and kind of prioritized some of the things that we’d like to see done, and one of them was to have the addition of a STEM lab,” he said.

And, that’s exactly what happened.

The STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) lab cost about $75,000 to get started, with a new building addition, a teacher, and 100 brand new Google Chromebooks, Lowery said.

Previously, the school didn’t have a single Chromebook.

“It’s just a great opportunity for the kids that they never would have had without his donation. We couldn’t have funded it without that, so my hope is it gives them a sample into some careers that they want to research further as they become young adults and the high school has lots of opportunities for them to pursue,” said Lowery.

The STEM lab offers 12 modules for the seventh and eighth graders. Subjects include engineering, robotics, drone technology, personal finance and home maintenance fundamentals like wiring and plastering.

“The kids love the lab, It’s just they come in and they open their jaws drop open like ‘Wow, this is really, really cool,'” he said.

The lab is fully funded for the next six years.

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