Black History Month: Investing in the future of the digital world

Mae Jemison, Kimberly Bryant and James E. West are among the many pioneers we celebrate during Black History Month for their contributions in shaping our history and creating a bright future.

They’re also critical innovators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, a focus area for Verizon’s business.

Though there has been progress, African-Americans are still underrepresented in STEM professions; the New Republic reports that African-Americans receive only six percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees.

To provide exposure to opportunities in STEM fields, Verizon is investing our engineering expertise and resources to bring technology and innovative learning to kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore their full potential.

Black History Month: Investing in the future of the digital worldIn honor of Black History Month, students from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in Bronx, N.Y., were invited to learn about opportunities in STEM fields and to try and develop an app at an event at Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, N.J. 

The event, sponsored by the Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives (CITE), an employee resource group at Verizon, featured a presentation from the New Product Development team about unique products in their design stage and a variety of speakers about careers and opportunities in STEM.

Event organizer Tanera Decosey-Duckery, a services assurance manager at Verizon and the president of CITE, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to supporting diversity and future leaders in the tech space.

“We’ve invested in you so you can help us answer questions for tomorrow,” Decosey-Duckery told students. “We need diverse leaders who are growing up in the digital generation.”

Black History Month: Investing in the future of the digital worldIn addition to Decosey-Duckery, Mike Muse, a music executive who served as a keynote speaker, led an interactive discussion about the importance of pursuing a STEM education.

“You have to take difficult courses, but it’s worth it in the end,” said Muse, who elicited student responses to help participants understand that STEM subjects could be applied in unexpected areas, such as using data to curate playlists. “Think about technology and how you can create solutions. STEM is cool and STEM is fun.”

Black History Month: Investing in the future of the digital worldLater in the day, Wade Harris, a syndicated radio personality and disc jockey, facilitated an app-development challenge in which students were asked to collaborate and conceive of a mobile app that would help solve a real-world challenge.

Several groups focused on bullying and other social issues, such as peer pressure and pollution. However, the winning presentation was a proposed app called Steps to Success that would enable two-way communication between students and teachers. The app would also include alerts for scholarship opportunities, checklists for homework, and documentation of community service hours.

“Today’s event broadens the scope of what we do at school, expanding the horizon of students,” said Nathan Larsen, an assistant principal. “We hope the kids will build connections and share their experiences.”