Opus Foundation® Funds Innovative STEM Program at Operation Breakthrough


​Since 2010, the Opus Foundation® has supported Operation Breakthrough with more than $320,000 in grants. The progressive Kansas City nonprofit was founded in 1971 with just four babies and has grown into one of Missouri's largest single-site childcare centers and broad-based social service agencies. Over the years the goal has remained the same: to provide a safe and loving environment that fosters success in school for the children and emotional and financial stability for their families.

Currently, Operation Breakthrough serves more than 430 children birth to 13 years old and 250 families annually. Nearly 70% live well below the federal poverty level, averaging only $11,300 annual income; 94% are single parent households; and approximately 100 children are homeless. 

Opus Foundation Builds Support for Operation Breakthrough

In 2015, Operation Breakthrough launched its original MakerSpace using funds from the inaugural Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award as seed money. Designed to promote learning through the use of real materials to tinker, problem solve, collaborate and create, the MakerSpace was a resounding success. 

In 2016, Operation Breakthrough opened a companion SMART/STEM Lab. The following year the Opus Foundation supported a comprehensive evaluation of the Makerspace and SMART/STEM Lab to assess the impact of maker education on children's academic achievement and character development, as well as explore best practices for incorporating STEM principles.

Over the last three years, more than 90% of Operation Breakthrough's pre-K children in the programs were kindergarten-ready compared to the national average of less than 50%. 

“Recently, I watched one of our four-year-old preschool students build and program a helicopter to turn its propellers and make a whirring sound," said Mary Esselman, president and CEO of Operation Breakthrough. “To prepare for the project, he had taken apart a ceiling fan at the hacking bench in the MakerSpace, and then learned how to code it at the coding table. His project is one of many that he and his peers have engaged in as part of Operation Breakthrough's early STEM programming." 

Operation Breakthrough Expands STEM Programming

This year, the Opus Foundation is furthering the mission of the nonprofit in a big way with a $150,000 grant to be paid out over three years. The grant will fund STEM learning labs and curriculum as part of Operation Breakthrough's new MakerVillage, a significant expansion of the nonprofit's STEM program and MakerSpace. The MakerVillage will open this fall.

This latest grant will support Operation Breakthrough's MakerVillage, The learning labs will be fully integrated and include online curriculum, education kits and assessment tools for developing 21st Century skills like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication and digital literacy. Labs will offer curriculum in life sciences, construction and design, robotics, electronics, software engineering, mechanics/engineering, fiber arts and textiles, studio arts and digital media. 

“We feel really privileged to have received this significant grant from the Opus Foundation," said Esselman. “We are super excited to expand our MakerSpace, which will require a lot more resources and specialized staffing. The grant makes it a tangible reality." 

It's exciting to see the advancements this organization is undertaking to improve the lives of low-income families and children. I'm a proud supporter of their mission!

The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.