Kern Family Foundation plants seeds for future engineers

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has formed a partnership with the Kern Family
Foundation to provide support to a national program designed to encourage more students
to become engineers.
The Kern Family Foundation has supported that program, known as Project Lead the Way,
for three years and is now hoping to convince other foundations and businesses to do the
The Kern Family Foundation’s support for the program started when Robert and Patricia
Kern, owners of Generac Corp., a Waukesha-based generator manufacturer, became
concerned about the lack of engineers graduating from American universities, and they
wanted to do something about it.
To help spark interest in engineering and other high-tech careers, the Kern Family
Foundation began providing funds to Project Lead the Way, a national program of hands-
on curriculum taught to middle and high school students, that emphasizes engineering,
science and technology.
Last fall, 32 Wisconsin middle and high schools received grants from the Kern Family
Foundation to implement the program. More than 50 additional schools in the state and 40
from outside the state have applied for Kern Family Foundation grants for the next school
"(Robert Kern) has a passion to do what he can to advance and promote manufacturing
within the state and our region, to keep the economy and industry strong," said Robert
Tweed, executive director of the Kern Family Foundation. "He believes in the need for
human capital and being able to offer something of value to areas outside our communities.
He lays awake at night thinking about this, and he wants to make a difference."
The grants from the Kern Family Foundation guarantee schools about $45,000 in funding
over three years to support the program, its curriculum and materials.
"Our hope is that after three years, the schools will develop relationships with area
businesses (that) will recognize the value of the program and what it means to the long-
term economic stability of the community," Tweed said.
The Kern Family Foundation is already spending more than $3 million per year on the
Project Lead the Way program and has taken steps to reach out to businesses and other
foundations to create long-term funding for the program, Tweed said.
"We are talking to businesses and other foundations about this fund, highlighting the
potential to support the project through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation fund," Tweed
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has given a $200,000 grant to the fund and is now
seeking businesses and investors who are interested in helping the program, said Jane
Moore, director of research and development for the GMF.
"We’re partnering with the Kern Family Foundation to expand the number of schools who
are able to offer this in the metro Milwaukee area," Moore said.
The Kern Family Foundation is interested in helping schools around and outside the state,
she said.
By donating to the GMF’s fund for Project Lead the Way, donors are able to give money
that is guaranteed to go to the program they are interested in, rather than giving money to a school or school district, Moore said.
"This allows for a monitoring of the resources," she said.
For information about giving to the GMF’s Project Lead the Way fund, call Jane Moore at
(414) 272-5805.

May 13, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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