In 2017, CIS of Chicago launched the STEMpathy program, a direct student support program inspired by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s compelling idea that the jobs of the future will require science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) ability and strong interpersonal skills.

As Friedman put it, “The best jobs in the future are going to be what I call STEMpathy jobs – jobs that blend STEM skills with human empathy.”

Through the program, students hone their STEM abilities through hands-on science lessons, and they also build social-emotional skills. This ultimately prepares them for postsecondary career opportunities.

STEMpathy (STEM + empathy) empowers sixth through eighth grade students to:

  • Solve complex technology problems, such as coding and operating robotic spheres;
  • Improve social-emotional skills, such as teamwork and resilience; and
  • Develop solutions and achieve goals.


STEMpathy takes place during or after school and is co-led by the STEMpathy Initiative Manager and the Student Supports Manager based full-time at the elementary school. Currently, the STEM component of the sessions is focused on engineering-based activities.

STEMpathy lessons are engaging learning sessions that allow students to achieve goals aligned with the NRC’s Next Generation Science Standards and the Illinois State Board of Education social-emotional learning indicators. Students participating in the program live in low-income families, and the majority are students of color. We place a special focus on encouraging girls, who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields, to participate.

This school year, 600 students will benefit from hands-on STEMpathy learning experiences. The students will learn how to work in teams, communicate effectively with peers, and build persistence to complete a variety of projects.