Level Playing Field Institute's Morehouse Summer STEM Program

Morehouse Launches Successful Summer STEM Program that Puts Atlanta-Area Teens On Path to New Careers

June 10-July 15, Oakland-based Level Playing Field Institute hosted a STEM Program at Morehouse College, an Atlanta historically Black college(HBCU).

The Atlanta Black Star reports that, "When 28 high school-age boys signed up to participate in the first year of a STEM program at Morehouse College, they could never have predicted the bond that would develop among them."

The metro-area high schoolers who participated as full-time college residents at Morehouse for LPFI's Summer Math and Science Honors Academy, which educates underrepresented, low-income nonwhite boys about STEM careers. The free, five-week partnership with the HBCU continues over the course of three years and teaches valuable skills in STEM.

Student and SMASh scholar Koren Mayson said, "This program has helped me to see how Black men are coming in to be successful in any field they choose and how [nonwhite] people are not represented well in [the] STEM field," Mayson said of the effort at Morehouse, which has bolstered the focus on STEM, according to LPFI CEO Eli Kennedy. "This program has taught me that it doesn't matter your skin color, you can pursue any dream you want, including stem field."

The number of Black men who have obtained bachelor's degrees in science and engineering has largely remained the same in a 10-year span, increasing from 6.1 percent in 2002 to 6.2 percent in 2012, according to data from the National Science Foundation. Career-wise, the NSF found Black men represent just 3 percent of the science and engineering workforce, yet they make up 6.2 percent of America's population age 18 to 64, according to the 2010 census. SMASH aims to change that.

Kennedy said the California-based program has sent nearly all of its 459 alumni -- who attended the program at UCLA, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis and Stanford -- to four-year colleges and the scholars are majoring in STEM at three times the national rate.

The shared interest in STEM is part of what created the bond of brotherhood that emerged among the young men.

Site director Dr. Brian Garrett believes brotherhood was a natural component of the program because of its location at an HBCU, which hosted SMASH's first-gender specific program in its 13-year history.

Garrett believes another thing had an impact on the way the students bonded: social justice, which is something that set SMASH apart from other STEM programs.

"Social justice requires community. It requires brotherhood and building up each other, so there's definitely a connection," Garret said.

Garrett believes embracing the social justice aspect of the program can create a profound shift in the way the students view themselves. Ahead of the program's conclusion on July 15, Koren Mayson and Jeremiah Smoot, new SMASH scholars, said they planned on using what they learned to better themselves in school this year.

"I plan to blow school out the water and be a different person and not stopping till school is over," SMASH scholar Jeremiah Smoot said. "I'm going to be the best person I can be because I know my brothers are rooting for me."

Find out more about the Level Playing Field Institute here.

The original article by Kiersten Willis appeared in the Atlanta Black Star July 24, 2017.

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