In­creas­ing mi­nor­ity par­tic­i­pa­tion in STEM, arts

Group aims to in­crease mi­nor­ity par­tic­i­pa­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEWMAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twitter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

A group of a dozen high school stu­dents met at the Wal­dorf West li­brary last week to dis­cuss their fu­ture ca­reers in busi­ness, medicine and law, among others. The group of mo­ti­vated teens hope their par­tic­i­pa­tion will in­crease their chances of get­ting into col­lege, thereby launch­ing them into lu­cra­tive ca­reers.

“Every­one here has the same mind­set,” Aqsa Sid­dique, 16, of Wal­dorf said of the Young Re­searchers Com­mu­nity Project, YRCP, group. “They all want to get in­volved and gain a bet­ter sense and knowl­edge of the world.”

YRCP is a part of STEAM On­ward Inc., a non­profit group that aims to in­crease the num­ber of mi­nor­ity and un­der­served youth pur­su­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion in STEM re­lated fields, such as science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, math­e­mat­ics, in ad­di­tion to the arts.

The group be­gan around 1989 when Bonita Adeeb, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, and Al­land Le­an­dre, board mem­ber, started hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions about what lo­cal stu­dents could ac­tively do to pur­sue their STEM in­ter­ests and cre­ate ef­fec­tive change in their com­mu­ni­ties. They started a counter mar­ket­ing strat­egy to en­cour­age peo­ple to stop smok­ing which led to other cam­paigns geared to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tal and other health is­sues.

“What could we do to help poorly achiev­ing kids of color in South­ern Mary­land? How do you get them to see that school is use­ful and about them?” Adeeb said she asked at the be­gin­ning of the group’s in­cep­tion. “Th­ese are things kids can ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity about.”

Le­an­dre said the group uses hand­son ac­tiv­i­ties to con­vey con­cepts and en­cour­age the stu­dents to be ex­cited about learn­ing.

“The time they have in the class­room is suf­fi­cient for some things, but not all things,” Le­an­dre said. “We’re bring­ing back the use of tools and project based learn­ing, lit­er­ally putting their hands in the dirt if it’s a gar­den­ing ac­tiv­ity.”

In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing an anti-va­p­ing pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment that has been shown in lo­cal movie the­aters, the group is join­ing forces with the fam­ily of Kris “Romeo” Bishun­dat, a Thomas Stone High School alum and mem­ber of the United States Navy who was killed at the Pen­tagon on Sept. 11, 2001, to host the fifth an­nual 9-11 Memo­rial 5K Road Race and Fun Walk in Bishun­dat’s mem­ory.

San­te­sia Ababio, 17, of Wal­dorf and Sid­dique agreed that the com­mu­nity ser­vice op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able through the group have been en­joy­able and ben­e­fi­cial to them in their fu­ture en­deav­ors.

“[STEAM On­ward] is some­thing good to do if you don’t know how to spend your sum­mer or if you don’t know what you want to do for a ca­reer or haven’t ap­plied to any col­leges yet,” Ababio said.

The stu­dents are also plugged into in­tern­ships with lo­cal busi­nesses, such as law of­fices and doc­tor’s of­fices, that cor­re­late with their fu­ture ca­reer plans.

Migue Darcera, 16, of Wal­dorf hopes to pur­sue a ca­reer in medicine and is shad­ow­ing an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon over the sum­mer. Darcera said the ex­pe­ri­ence has taught him how a doc­tor prop­erly talks to pa­tients and fur­thered his in­ter­est to work in car­di­ol­ogy and help others.

Af­ter work­ing at her in­tern­ship at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Charles Re­gional Med­i­cal Center, Ababio said she sees her fu­ture go­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

“When I started this pro­gram I wanted to be a nurse but now I’m more open to ra­di­ol­ogy and I want to open my own prac­tice,” Ababio said.

Ababio said she be­came in­ter­ested in STEAM On­ward af­ter hear­ing about it in school and wanted to take ad­van­tage of the health­care in­tern­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties that were avail­able.

Le­an­dre said an in­tern­ship with the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion — an op­por­tu­nity that he only ap­plied for be­cause his teacher told him to — was what “set off light­bulbs” for him as to what his fu­ture ca­reer could be. A prod­uct of Wash­ing­ton D.C. pub­lic schools and par­ents who didn’t go to col­lege, Le­an­dre is now the CEO of Vyalex Man­age­ment So­lu­tions, a gov­ern­ment con­tract­ing firm fo­cus­ing on tech­nol­ogy and ac­qui­si­tion man­age­ment.

Now, STEAM On­ward part­ners with a num­ber of busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions in the area that of­fer ex­per­tise and op­por­tu­nity to de­ter­mined stu­dents. Le­an­dre said he hopes to start a new tech­nol­ogy sum­mit spon­sored and de­signed by the corporate com­mu­nity “be­cause they’re the ones who are do­ing the work and see what the need is.”

“The U.S. is los­ing the fight in global com­pet­i­tive­ness and it’s much eas­ier to grow that tal­ent here,” Le­an­dre said. “For years we were lead­ing in ev­ery area … we’re not nec­es­sar­ily in a po­si­tion where the next big thing would come from here. It’s bad for us be­cause our econ­omy is based on our abil­ity to in­no­vate. In­vest­ing in th­ese kids is ul­ti­mately what will sus­tain our econ­omy and qual­ity of life.”

Le­an­dre said the South­ern Mary­land area has the ca­pac­ity to cre­ate some­thing big and an ef­fort to ed­u­cate stu­dents in th­ese ca­reers and keep them work­ing lo­cally will cre­ate a nice place to live.

“Why not grow our own ge­niuses?” he said.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY SARA NEWMAN

Stu­dents from the Young Re­searchers Com­mu­nity Project, a pro­gram that’s part of STEAM On­ward Inc. meet at the Wal­dorf West li­brary to dis­cuss busi­ness con­cepts that can be ap­plied to current projects and their fu­ture ca­reers.

Carmella Watkins, left, board mem­ber of STEAM On­ward Inc. and Bonita Adeeb, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, lis­ten to San­te­sia Ababio, 17, of Wal­dorf give a pre­sen­ta­tion about a project the group is work­ing on.

Al­land Le­an­dre, board mem­ber of STEAM On­ward Inc. and CEO of Vyalex Man­age­ment So­lu­tions, a gov­ern­ment con­tract­ing firm fo­cus­ing on tech­nol­ogy and ac­qui­si­tion man­age­ment, talks to stu­dents about how busi­ness con­cepts can be ap­plied to their fu­ture ca­reer en­deav­ors.

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