OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – New funding from OKC’s Innovation District is not only shifting a nationwide narrative about Black representation in STEM and STEAM – learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics – it’s also driving change for students in Northeast OKC.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
SEWD (STEM Education & Workforce Development) Committee, managed by the Oklahoma City Innovation District, is proud to announce the recipients of 2023 allocations to a round of initiatives dedicated to increasing access to STEM camps, careers and educational programming across NE OKC.
One of this year’s recipients is Urban Bridge.
On an average afternoon Sahar Hasan is already teaching STEM and STEAM skills to students at Urban Bridge in Northeast OKC.
“Primarily what I do at the moment is teach middle school and high school, 2D and 3D modeling. It’s kind of a segway into the ideas of CAD programs, computer aided design,” she said.
“They see something, they’re willing to try, they’re willing to give it a shot.”
Access like that and the resources to match are sometimes easier to come by in other communities.
The center’s founder, Marcus Jackson, said there’s a reason why they push for mentors like Sahar and STEM education at the Bridge.
“It communicates that you don’t have to only look or come from a certain background to have success,” said Marcus.
“The whole vision behind it was all about making sure that as the world changes and the workforce changes, that the people in this community won’t miss out and that the young people, they won’t miss out on the opportunity to thrive ,” he added.
It’s a critical connection, as groups race to close a gap in science and math related careers.
“We’re hearing numbers like a million new jobs added to the health care and the bio manufacturing industry over the next ten years. And we don’t have the capacity and training,” said Koey Keylon, Executive Director, OKC Innovation District Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Center.
“Bringing that curriculum in at an earlier age is extremely important to developing that workforce,” he continued.
They’re in growing demand, but in Oklahoma, numbers show just six percent of its 2022 high school graduating class overall was ready to study STEM, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
Black Americans make up less than 10 percent of the STEM workforce, nationwide.
Marcus said Urban Bridge is working hard to make sure the opportunity doesn’t overlook his community.
“If we want Oklahoma to be a great state, it has to be great across the board for everybody,” he said.
Funding for Urban Bridge go towards an afterschool program entitled ‘STEM Force’ for middle school students and will assist with the retention of the STEM coordinator, the purchase of new equipment, computers and STEM kits to directly service more students, and the incorporation of community partnerships with students.
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The OKC Innovation District partners with Douglass High School, F.D. Moon Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Millwood Public Schools, and Thelma Parks Elementary School.
In 2022, the Committee allocated $395,000 to serve more than 2,000 students, 600 parents and teachers and more than 600 volunteer hours.
For more information about the program, visit https://okcinnovation.com/northeast-okc/