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Virgin United Announces Sarah Brightman STEM Scholarship for Minority Women

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 1, 2012
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Sarah Brightman. (Credit: Eckhard Pecher)

Virgin United PR — Virgin Galactic, the world’s first spaceline, and the Virgin Group’s not-for-profit Virgin Unite have come together to announce the Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship Program.

Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts Jann Bytheway and Global recording artist/UNESCO Artist for Peace Ambassador Sarah Brightman have, by generous donations, created the Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship Program, which will be managed through a partnership with UNCF (United Negro College Fund), one of the nation’s largest private providers of minority scholarships.

The Bytheway and Brightman STEM Scholarship Program will help young females in the US pursue STEM education throughout their four-year college career, providing a much needed boost to the current participation of females in this area. The first scholarships will be awarded this fall. The application deadline is May 31, 2012.

To apply for Galactic Unite Bytheway Scholarship, please visit

To apply for Galactic Unite Brightman Scholarship, please visit

Galactic Unite is a global initiative, driven by Virgin Galactic’s community of Future Astronaut customers, designed to inspire and support students as they seek answers to global challenges through science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) and business entrepreneurship.

Commenting on the announcement, George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic said: “Space exploration belongs to everyone regardless of socio-economic background. We have built and will be operating the vehicles that will provide universal access to space, safely and affordably for the very first time. But this is just the start. The new industry which we are helping to create will offer endless exciting opportunities for talented young people. We will need that talent in order for the industry to grow and to reach its full potential. Through Jann and Sarah’s generosity and the vision of our community of Future Astronauts, young lives will be changed and ambitions fulfilled to the benefit of future generations.”

“It is exciting to be able to partner with Virgin Unite to provide STEM scholarships to young women,” said Jann Bytheway. “Some of the fastest growing and financially rewarding jobs in the U.S. are in the STEM fields. While women make up more than 50% of the work force, they only comprise one quarter of the STEM jobs. The world needs inventive, intelligent women who can make a difference in STEM.”

Sarah Brightman added: “I’m delighted to be supporting this exciting and important program. There are many talented young women out there who need to be given greater opportunities to develop their STEM skills. These women could be our future astronauts and space program pioneers. Success in every field is usually achieved through a mix of innate skill and superb teaching. I believe that these scholarships will enable the education system to bring out the best in young women who might otherwise not get a chance to realize their full potential.”

“UNCF is excited to be partnering with Virgin Unite to offer this space-age scholarship program,” said UNCF president and CEO Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D. “America will define itself in the 21st century by its ability to prepare our young people for STEM careers, and by its commitment to offer those opportunities to young women from low- and moderate-income families, who are currently underrepresented in STEM careers. UNCF is proud to be part of The Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship Program and salutes Jann Bytheway and Sarah Brightman for their generosity and willingness to invest in America’s future.”

“We are so excited to be working with Virgin Galactic, UNCF and the wonderful Future Astronauts from Virgin Galactic. A big thanks to Jann and Sarah for their commitment. We look forward to working with other partners and other Future Astronauts to really grow this program with the aim of encouraging millions of other young people to get a STEM education and help us all re-imagine how we live and work in this world.” said Virgin Unite CEO Jean Oelwang.

About Virgin Unite

Virgin Unite is the non-for-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. We unite people to tackle tough social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way. Our aim is to help revolutionize the way businesses, governments and the social sector work together – driving business as a force for good. This is based on the belief that this is the only way we can tackle the scale and urgency of the challenges facing the world today. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning that 100% of additional donations received go direct to the front line where they are needed most. For more information please visit www.virginunite.comn

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About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend college and get the education they need and that the nation needs them to have. To live up to the ideal expressed in UNCF’s universally-recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,”® UNCF helps students go to and through college by: – Awarding 10,000 scholarships each year under 400 scholarship and internship programs so that students from low- and moderate-income families can attend more than 900 colleges and universities across the country. Through the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, for example, UNCF has enabled almost 600 students and scholars to study biological science and engineering at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral levels; – Providing operating funds for its 38 member colleges, small, private institutions that offer a small-college experience at tuitions that average more than 30 percent less than those at comparable colleges and universities; and – Serving as a national advocate for college readiness and the importance of education for all Americans.

Editor’s Note: I did a bit of sleuthing on this, and I have found Jann Bytheway listed as secretary of Bytheway’s Manufacturing, a company that makes window blinds and related furnishings in West Sacramento, Calif. The family-run company was bought out about a decade ago by Hunter Douglas West, so it’s not clear whether it still exists as an independent entity.