STEM Is the Future. So How Do We Get More Black Kids Involved?

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By Maya Pottiger, World in Black

Black adults say STEM professions aren’t welcoming to them, and in 2019, only 8% of STEM teachers were Black.

Conerly inspired her students with a white coat ceremony (Gray’s Southern Image Photography)

Last year, an elementary school principal in rural Mississippi wanted to get her students excited about science. So, after receiving grant funding, she bought robots for third and fourth graders to assemble and then held a white coat ceremony for them, complete with their names embroidered on the jackets.

Though she’s been principal for three years and has worked in schools for the last decade, Alicia Conerly, Ed.S., comes from a science background. 

“I know and understand that if you don’t pique the interest of children early, the odds of them, once they hit middle school into high school, if they don’t already like it or find something that they enjoy about it, they won’t go into STEM career fields,” Conerly says. “So I wanted to change that.”

It worked. Every “STEM Pioneer” successfully assembled and programmed their robot. And the reception, complete with a photographer and certificates, motivated younger students in the school. 

But without the grant — and donors for the ceremony — this wouldn’t have been possible. And Black students, especially from a young age, need to be exposed to engaging STEM activities to understand the options they have and see themselves in the field.

Keep reading to discover what it takes to engage Black kids in STEM.

Engineer Olympia LePoint agrees that more Black people should enter STEM. Meanwhile, STEM isn’t the only industry unwelcoming to Black professionals.

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