The 100 Black Men of Greater Washington D.C. organization plans to raise funds to continue the STEM the 100 Way Program for underserved students at National Collegiate Preparatory School this summer. The initial STEM the 100 Way sessions ran from Feb. 13 to April 16 after the 100 Black Men learned of the charter school’s history as the first D.C. Charter East of the Anacostia River.
“National Collegiate is the first program incubated within this program. Once I walked into the room and saw 45 potential IB [international baccalaureate] candidates and they were all little Black boys and girls from underserved areas, it instantaneously made me want to be involved,” Kevin Walter Smith, director of STEM The 100 Way, told the AFRO. “I grew up in an underserved area in Dallas and in 1996, I became the first Black male IB diploma recipient in Texas and I was accepted to universities like Stanford, Harvard, and Duke, even though I chose an HBCU, because of my abilities in STEM.”
At the charter school every Saturday during the program period, 65 students and 10 to 15 volunteers from the 100 Black Men provided mentoring, and science labs and academic kits for the students, in order to help prepare them for the DC State Board of Education PARCC exam held in late April, while increasing minority aptitude in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
“Our STEM programs don’t focus on just science,” Kenia Montague, a sophomore at National Prep said. “Before I started these classes I had problems in [English Language Arts] and math. I was reading on a 9th grade level and now I am on a 12th grade level.”
The kits the students work with contain materials on biomedical science including DNA molecules, cellular chromosomes, biomarkers, elements of infectious diseases, and involvements with cyber-forensic crime scenes.
“I was hesitant to come at first, but once I did I was like, ‘Wow, this is really fun.’ All of the sessions are very interactive and on one field trip, we dissected mosquitoes where we then learned about the Zika Virus,” Brittany Zilger, another sophomore at National Prep said.
The field trip was a March 9 to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, during the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper “Day at the Labs” event, where renowned STEM educators Dr. Debra Yourick and Dr. Margery Anderson led interactive activities and workshops with students.
“Student motivation levels are raised through the roof. They come in shy, but are no longer scared to answer tough questions. They have more faith in themselves and now we at National Prep want to create actual STEM labs for them inside of the school, get students internships and even set up scholarships that will take them from freshmen to senior year in college,” Melvin Stallings, director of STEM for National Prep said.
The 100 Black Men initially developed the STEM the 100 Way in 2013 in partnership with the Department of Defense, with a goal to alleviate the divide in Black under-served D.C. communities to continue to push social barriers and mentor to more underserved schools. “We having a saying in 100 Black Men that they’ll be what they see, so if these young people don’t see us, then they cannot be us and that is why we plan to continue to mentor to young students and move into even more schools so that they can understand that they have a greater purpose,” Ivory Johnson, president of 100 Black Men, said.