Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation Opens New STEAM+Ag Learning Center

EAST STREET. LOUIS, Illinois – The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation is sowing the seeds of change by creating opportunities for young people in agriculture and plant science.

On Monday, the East St. Louis native and Olympic champion was front and center at the groundbreaking ceremony for her foundation’s Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Innovation Center.

“We were really trying to expose and show the opportunity that exists in this space and allow us to work with our students to help them plant the seeds, nurture them, and learn where the food comes from,” said said Jackie Joyner-Kersee. “So when you live in a community that’s a food desert…Access is everything.”

The center is a public-private partnership between his foundation, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Illinois Extension.

“We bring our expertise in the field of STEAM and agricultural education for the K-12 level, including out-of-class experiences for students, internships at the Danforth Center and, really, support for students who are just getting started. in agriculture beyond. high school,” said Kristine Callis-Duehl, director of educational research and outreach at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The JJK Foundation has acquired a 12,000 foot facility that will be used to expand the JJK Center site, adding gardens, greenhouses and cooking classrooms. Creation of an education center in East St. Louis that will serve as a model for how urban STEAM+Ag education is delivered.

“It’s kind of like a big think tank on using plant science, agriculture and nutrition as a tool for youth and community development in this region,” Kim Kidwell said. , associate chancellor of partnerships and strategic initiatives at the University of Illinois.

“It’s very important for young people to see themselves in their community, in their vision and in their dream,” said Darius Pikes, urban agriculture scientist and STEAM instructor at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.