Brenda Coleman Discusses Why Your Kids Need S.T.E.M. Careers
Some of today’s parents are faced with tough decisions trying to get their kids on the pathway to careers that stick and colleges that make sense for them. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the dropout rate from 1990 to 2012 was significantly lower for whites than blacks and Hispanics. Fortunately the rate itself overall had declined for each ethnicity mentioned above; but, I wonder if we could expand options for kids how the rate would be impacted.
When thinking about what it would take for the rate to drop to zero, a few things come to mind. Recently I spoke with Brenda Coleman, the Executive Director of Atlanta Cares Mentoring Program. Ms. Coleman is a strong advocate of S.T.E.M. initiatives also know in the expanded version as S.T.E.A.2M. What does the acronym stand for? Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Agriculture and Math.
It may seem to many a no brainer that we should put more emphasis in these areas; however, we continue to lag behind for many students in these areas. Ms. Coleman says “one of the goals for the Atlanta based program is to dramatically increase high school graduation rates, college enrollment, job readiness and entrepreneurial training.” She feels the only way to fulfill this goal, is to provide opportunities for our youth to engage in STEM activities that would make them want to follow a STEM career path. As facilitator of the annual STEMfest Youth Conference at Georgia Tech and STEM EnRICH Summer Academy at Morehouse College her signature STEM events, she makes her desire to create intergenerational wealth for families a reality that can be seen by all.
When asked why this is important to her she mentioned she has children of her own with advanced degrees. Her children Todd, PHD in Engineering from MIT) and Professor of Bio-Medical Engineering, and Brian, a Public Health Administrator (Masters Degree from Morehouse School of Medicine), and daughter, Shenia, (Law Degree from the University of North Carolina) is a corporate attorney. This all brings to light how serious Ms. Coleman is about supporting the need for education for both personal and professional success.
Ms. Coleman also notes “it is important to promote involvement in STEM for today’s youth because of the surging number of 21st Century STEM jobs available now and in the future. And, people who work in STEM careers typically earn 25% or more than their counterparts in other careers.”
As you look towards companies that employ people in STEM careers, you often see a cultural disparities. I asked Ms. Coleman to speak to why she thinks this exists. She said “I think the cultural/racial disparity in the involvement of STEM may be due to the sub-standard educational opportunities in science and math of underserved and under resourced students. Often times, these students do not have the basic skills and background knowledge in STEM to feel competent and confident about matriculating through a post secondary education in STEM and/or pursuing a STEM career.”
So many kids today want careers in entertainment and professionals sports. They want to be seen in the spotlight as though somehow that makes them more important. The reality is not only can you be important with a career in a STEM job but you can also create sustainable income. Sadly, in sports, unless you are the star player the salaries though good at first can quickly dry up in no time if you get an injury that can halt your career. As far as entertainment is concerned, the same can happen as we’ve all seen many one hit wonders that no one ever heard from again.
As we embark on the new year, I challenge parents to look toward careers in STEM by starting early. It’s amazing how many different types of jobs people can get by simply following a STEM college path. For the kids, all of those video games played are because someone understood the need for technology and by taking part in a STEM lifestyle as I like to call it, they too can be part of the future for all. Ms. Coleman was asked how parents can get their kids involved in STEM. She responded “parents should network with other like minded parents, connect with STEM youth serving organizations, subscribe to STEM periodicals, and look for STEM activities in their community in order to keep their children involved in STEM.”
As for Atlanta Cares, they invite everyone to join them as they expand their outreach in the coming year to include graphic design, animation, mobile & tablet APP design, and mobile game design. through our partnership with Success Warriors (successwarriors.org) . She also says “we are also seeking to empower youth who are approaching post-secondary studies with access to recruitment, collegiate scholarships, and internship opportunities. To further support our goals and expand our mission, we have added the STEA²M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Agriculture, Math) Seminar Series: Preparing the Next Generation for College and Careers, which will be hosted on the campus of local colleges including Atlanta Technical College, Kennesaw State University, The Morehouse School of Medicine, and The Atlanta College of Art and Design (SCAD). The goal of the seminars is to familiarize our youth with the higher institution’s STEM career options, admissions process, funding sources, and leadership opportunities.”