CLEVELAND — The science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce is historically underrepresented by women and people of color.
A partnership between Cuyahoga Community College and local nonprofit 1,000 Ties seeks to bridge that gap by teaching and encouraging young Cleveland Metropolitan School District students to get involved.
Some say robots are the future, but really it's the people who make them.
“I love robots. And when I was younger, I got my first robot—when I was five, it was a toy and it talked and it moved,” said Wade Park School sixth grader Rayshawn King.
King and his classmates spent their Thursday at Tri-C learning all there is to know about robots and even building their own. The class was conducted by Tondi Allen, a technology coach and founder of Urban City Codes, a company that focused on closing the technology gap for Black people and other people of color, as well as supporting under-represnted and under-resourced groups and companies in the tech field.
It's a treat for King and his classmate, Zahhod Livingston.
“I felt excited and since COVID is going around, not everybody has the chance to go outside and do stuff,” said Livingston.
The opportunity comes to them through a partnership between Wade Park School and 1,000 Ties, a non-profit geared towards enriching the lives of Black and brown boys in the Cleveland area.
The organization has a STEM mentoring program with Tri-C, where the boys are paired with a mentor from Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“As we've seen during the pandemic there is a technology gap, a technology deficit, especially in the Black and brown community. So it's very important to create these opportunities to expose them to these type of events,” said Jermel Carr, a member of Omega Psi Phi and 1,000 Ties mentor.
Black and Hispanic workers are very underrepresented in the STEM workforce. A Pew Research Center report found that they respectively make up just 9% and 8% all STEM workers, compared to 67% for white workers.
Unfortunately, young Black students are all too aware of those odds.
“Well, not really disappointed but a little bit sad because you know, well, we need Black engineers,” said Livingston.
As Allen led the boys through the process of making robotic cars, the goal for her and their mentors is to nurture the STEM seeds inside these students.
“That's something that's very important to me is to open up their eyes into the type of careers that they can go into,” said Carr.
And for these boys, it's an effort that doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
“I feel that I have the ability to achieve something,” said King.
“Makes me feel happy and loved,” said Livingston.
More information about 1,000 Ties and its Tri-C STEM mentoring program can be found here.
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