Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Runs on STEAM

Guest blog by Pandit F. Wright, President & CEO of BGCGW

With deep commitment to a mission serving the youth who need us most, my BGCGW team and I take on the responsibility of ensuring that every member who comes through our doors leaves with a vision for a productive life and a plan for the future. Over the past year, we’ve focused on closing a gap in the education of some of our members, and that is the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Here’s why...

In 2011, China had the highest percentage of college graduates with STEM degrees at 46.7%, followed by South Korea at 37.8%, and Germany at 28.1%. The United States trails behind these economic competitors with only 5.6% of graduate degrees in STEM-related fields. After looking at these statistics, it’s hard not to consider the impact that this will have on our ability to compete in global markets, and how it can affect our national growth.

The United States Department of Labor says that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing occupations in 2014 will require significant mathematics or science preparation. According to the United States Bureau of Statistics, the country will have over 1 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, and yet only 16% of United States bachelor’s degrees will specialize in STEM.

These devastating figures are the reason why programs and relationships with companies such as Verizon are so vital to the success of our youth. Our goal is to get Club members involved in STEM at an early age, create positive impact and remove any negative associations that may have already formed around these subject areas. Throughout the years, Verizon has donated time and resources to this cause. Last Wednesday (Feb 6), a team of Verizon information technology volunteers hosted a culminating ceremony for a 10-week program that taught 23 members ages 9 to 14 the basics of robotics and how they are used in daily life. These members had the opportunity to create their own robots, the results of which were impressive. However, for me, the most impressive result was a 13-year-old girl who told the audience she liked the fact Verizon provided “real tools, made of real metal and steel,” and that she now plans to pursue a career in engineering or technology.

At BGCGW we use our resources not only to teach STEM, but to try and keep members engaged throughout their adolescent, pre-career years. In this pursuit we have launched STEAM, the “A” representing the arts. Examples of people who move with ease between the worlds of science and the arts have long been documented, and the integration of the arts is a powerful way to make learning fun and more meaningful. It improves student retention, helps clarify tough subjects and vocabulary, and promotes over-all learning.

Running on STEAM is just one of our strategies for impacting kids on their way to great futures. Find out more about our organization, our STEAM initiative and the youth we serve. Come and see what’s going on; we're on Facebook and Twitter!