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Burbank schools net nearly quarter million in ‘Young Sheldon’ STEM scholarships

Eight Burbank Unified secondary schools will be dividing up $240,000 thanks to a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, grant provided by the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation.

Foundation creator Chuck Lorre, an executive producer and co-creator of the CBS-distributed comedy series “Young Sheldon,” enrolled actor Jim Parsons, who plays older Sheldon on the long-running comedy series “The Big Bang Theory,” fellow show co-creator Steven Molaro, Warner Brothers Television Group and CBS to fund a set of two-year “Young Sheldon STEM Initiative” grants.

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During the first round of two-year grants, a total of $600,000 was awarded to 19 schools elementary, middle and high schools in California and Texas that have a connection to the sitcom.

“When the education of a child is supported, there is no limit to what that child might eventually achieve,” Lorre said in a statement. “We hope that, in some small way, this program gives these public schools more STEM educational tools in the classroom for teachers to nurture and ignite the curiosity of students who will ultimately become our future leaders and scholars.”

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Along with the money, each school received a certificate and a personalized “congratulations” video from the “Young Sheldon” cast. California students and teachers will also visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, where older Sheldon works in the “Big Bang Theory.”

“Young Sheldon” has two connections to the Media City. In addition to being filmed in Burbank, Molaro has a son who attends Burbank High.

Grant money was distributed to Burbank, Burroughs and Monterey high schools, Burbank Community Day School, the Independent Learning Academy as well as Luther Burbank, David Starr Jordan and John Muir middle schools.

“It’s really exciting,” Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said. “When [the Lorre Foundation] came to talk to us about this, they liked our approach for STEM in our schools. … It will give a big boast to what we’ve been trying to implement in our secondary schools.”

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Hill tapped Sharon Cuseo, the district’s assistant superintendent of instructional services, to reach out to teachers in order to find what was needed and how grant money could support their current projects.

Hill listed a few of the ways the money would be spent, including the purchase of Chromebook laptops for high school engineering classes, a makerspace science lab and workshop at Monterey High and robotic kits for the middle schools.

“We were really pleased to work with the Chuck Lorre Foundation and Warner Bros.,” Hill said. “They asked us what we were doing already and then they worked with us to identify our needs.”

The money breaks down to $15,000 per school over the life of the first two-year grant.

The good news for all recipients is that they can apply for continuation grants when the two-year period ends.

“Each school will be available to submit a review on what impact was made through the grant,” said Trisha Cardoso, a spokeswoman for the Lorre Family Foundation. “They can list how they will continue to elevate existing STEM programs.”

The only other California school to receive money was Van Nuys High School in the Los Angeles Unified, where “Young Sheldon” is frequently filmed.

Ten Texas schools also received funding. In “Young Sheldon,” the title character and his family live in Texas before older Sheldon moves to California.

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