AstraZeneca’s Empowerment Summit Emphasizes Importance of “Courage. Action. Change.”

Once per year, AstraZeneca opens its corporate contributions application to all US-based nonprofit organizations (NPOs). During this period, NPOs can submit applications for their innovative health and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for up to $15,000. These programs must either present a new approach, tool or technology to solve a health challenge, or support K-12 or undergraduate STEM education. Many exciting, innovative health & STEM solutions are presented and ultimately, the programs with the greatest potential for impact are awarded funding.

In 2018, we funded 16 programs that are already doing great work within local communities across the US, some of which are detailed below. To see the complete list of programs funded via the 2018 Health & Science Innovation Challenge, please click here.

Innovative Approaches to Health Challenges


Casting for Recovery (CfR) provides healing outdoor retreats for women with breast cancer, at no cost to the participants. CfR’s retreats offer opportunities for women to find inspiration, discover renewed energy for life, and experience healing connections with other women and nature. For women who have undergone various treatments for their breast cancer, the gentle motion of fly casting can provide physical therapy for increasing mobility in the arm and upper body.

Casting for Recovery has compiled over 20 years of evaluations that tell us our programs change lives in meaningful and lasting ways. Participant evaluations from the 2018 retreat season reveal the powerful impact of this program on women’s lives and have shown that 100% of respondents would recommend this program to others. Most respondents said their support base had improved and they gained new friends. There were 56 retreats in 2018 which serviced 717 breast cancer survivors with the assistance of approximately 1,800 volunteers.

GrowingGreat’s mission is to build nourishing, learning communities that empower children to make healthy food choices. Their programs inspire school children and teens, families, civic leaders, community organizations and businesses to become leaders in promoting healthy food choices through hands-on STEM, garden and nutrition education programs.

“Hecho Por Mi/Made it Myself: Empowering Teens in the Kitchen” supports healthy eating and takes aim at fighting obesity, by introducing middle and high school students to nutrition and STEM activities in the kitchen as they become independent healthy cooks. Not only do teens enjoy cooking and eating together, they are empowered to be spokespeople in their communities as they write their own cookbook based on our program and share the foods they cook with parents and siblings.

STEM Education Support


Explora is an experiential learning center with a mission of creating opportunities for inspirational discovery and the joy of lifelong learning through interactive experiences in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). Their program, Tinker! Make! Create! Mobile STEAM Room provides educational, hands-on makerspace-style activities for diverse students of color and their families living in urban, rural, and tribal communities throughout New Mexico.

The program goal is to bring interactive, maker-focused experiences to underserved audiences and demonstrate that all communities—regardless of income and resources—can get involved in the maker movement and explore the intersections of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Explora provides maker activities and experiences that put creativity, joy, and playfulness at the center of the learning process and directly support career pathways in STEAM fields.

Tech Impact's mission is to empower communities and nonprofits to use technology to better serve our world. The ITWorks Program increases access to education, technical training, and employment opportunities for young adults who are disconnected from work and school and face significant economic or social barriers to advancing in their careers and in life.

In only 16 weeks, ITWorks provides technical and soft-skills training, certifications, mentorship, hands-on experience via an IT internship, and connections to dozens of potential employers, to help them secure and retain in-demand entry-level technology jobs. ITWorks also provides a skilled, diverse talent pipeline to local companies.

Collaborating with urban area high schools with high minority populations, CREATE U is helping equip Arizona’s youth who are at-risk of falling behind with 21st century skills by providing a pathway to economic mobility through training, hands-on application, and mentorship by professionals working in STEM careers. Through this program, underserved teens in grades 6-10 are trained in the use of state-of-the-art tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters, 3D design and coding programs such as Tinkercad, and craft tools in the CREATE makerspace facility.

Working for over 13 weeks with CREATE coaches and STEM-industry mentors in the community, students work in teams to brainstorm, design, create, and build a solution to a real-world challenge using their new skills. Past CREATE U themes have included aerospace, assistive technologies, and transportation, among others. Since the CREATE U program began, participating teens have emerged with inspiration, new skills and abilities, knowledge, and confidence.

The mission of Girlstart is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs. To accomplish its mission, Girlstart develops and implements a range of innovative, research- and standards-based education and mentorship programs designed to promote girls’ early engagement and academic success in STEM, encourage girls' aspirations and persistence in STEM education and careers, and incubate a talented and diverse STEM workforce.

In the Fall of 2018, Girlstart reached 2,282 4th-6th grade girls in 25 school districts in Texas, Boston and California. Girlstart also operated a Summer Camp Program, Community STEM Education Program, and provided in-service and informal education to 1,513 educators. After the programs, most of the girls reportedly said they liked science and that they felt they could be themselves at Girlstart.