Braskem and Science Leadership Academy Center City

Interview with Christopher Lehmann, Founding Principal, Science Leadership Academy & Jeremy Spry, Program Manager, Science Leadership Academy.

Nonprofit Organization: Science Leadership Academy Center City

Years at organization: 15

The Partners:

Braskem and Science Leadership Academy Center City

Partners since: 2015

What corporate sector skills do you benefit from most when engaging with corporate volunteers?

At Science Leadership Academy, we often say “High School is not preparation for the real world, high school is the real world.”

Our students have year-long internships with Braskem employees every Wednesday for two hours. They  learn important engineering skills, but also gain experience of what it’s like to work in a large organization, something that few 16-year-olds get to do.  They participate in “Lunch and Learns” with other Braskem team members. They also go to the Marcus Hook plant where, in 2020, Braskem team members lived at the plant making the raw material for PPE to battle against Covid-19.

How does leveraging employee volunteers help deliver on your mission?

Braskem encourages students to use the SLA core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection in their offices to show the connection between school and the larger world. Through their work, they are able to apply what they learned in school directly into action.

The Lunch and Learn series culminates with ‘Shark Tank’ style presentations to Braskem employees.

Share a recent success story with employee volunteerism

Braskem also sponsors our senior projects known as Capstones. Once a month, Braskem hosts a “Lunch and Learn” session with our seniors to help them create and hone their senior project ideas.

Topics for these sessions have included How To Use Disruption As An Opportunity To Innovate, Creating A Project Timeline, Creating and Modifying Budgets and Marketing Your Projects. These sessions culminate in a Shark Tank-style event in which students pitch their ideas to Braskem team members to secure not only funding but additional mentorship to help their ideas become reality.

This is just another example of the shared mission between SLA and Braskem that high school should be the real world, not preparation for the real world.

Where would you like to see employee volunteerism evolve and focus its direction in the future and why?

The partnership between Braskem and Science Leadership Academy is a powerful one:  students are provided access to an unbelievable amount of opportunities. Through the internship and mentorship, students have made bonds and connections that have opened their eyes to larger possibilities. Students who have participated in this partnership have gone off to college to study engineering, business, become part of the medical field and even have sought internships at NASA and other prestigious organizations.

It is our hope that more organizations can follow Braskem’s lead and not simply just make a one-time gesture of time but provide genuine mentorship for students, open their eyes to a larger world and allow them to tell their stories.


More information and videos highlighting the partnership can be found on the Braskem website: