Bringing inclusion and diversity to STEM education is how I help combat systemic racism
October 21, 2020
October 21, 2020
Through volunteering and donations in STEM education, we can overcome racial bias and provide needed opportunities for Black students in STEM fields
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, Black Americans remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, accounting for only 9 percent of the workforce. It is an issue that has long affected nearly every STEM industry. Correcting it begins with supporting inclusion and diversity in STEM education and providing more opportunities in STEM fields for Black people.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been born to parents with the means to provide me with a quality education. As a Black man, I’ve always considered it my responsibility to share my knowledge and experience with children who do not have the same opportunities as I did. So, for the past three years, I’ve tutored students in math at the Academy Prep Center of Tampa—a non-profit middle school with a mission to inspire and empower students qualifying for need-based scholarships. There is no experience like it in the world.
My fond memories while tutoring include helping a 7th grader who happened to be struggling in math. After working with him for months, he came to a tutoring session thrilled to tell me that he got the highest grade in his class on his weekly math test. The next week, he again got the highest grade. Working with these students in support of the school’s brilliant educators has been incredibly rewarding. These experiences provide me with constant reminders that we can and must overcome the racial divide that persists in education and career opportunities.
The kids who go to Academy Prep come from low-income homes and are mostly Black. Their teachers work tirelessly to create a welcoming environment that encourages them to excel and provides them with a path to success that would otherwise not be available.
I’m proud that Stantec has partnered with the Academy to support its mission.
As part of Stantec’s commitment to supporting inclusion and diversity in STEM education, we’ve donated $20,000 to Academy Prep to improve classrooms and provide the resources teachers and students need to succeed. Jenna Dufficy, academic dean and math teacher at Academy Prep, told us: “The investment made by Stantec in updating our classrooms to meet the needs of 21st century learners is invaluable. Research shows that students make stronger connections to learning and understanding mathematics when they work on a vertical, non-permanent writing surface. Stantec's generous donation will provide our students the opportunity to simultaneously engage with material on wall-mounted whiteboards around the classroom, developing our students' skills not only as mathematicians but also as collaborators and communicators.”
What’s striking to me about Jenna’s comments is her emphasis on collaboration. When I think about the work my colleagues and I do at Stantec, I think about the teamwork required to see a project through to fruition. Everyone on a project teams brings their own valuable expertise to the table, and we work together to solve problems and deliver quality results.
Through our partnership with Academy Prep, we’re giving educators the resources to foster a learning environment that helps kids build professional habits that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Our goal in helping educate young Black students is to build a bridge to our community members who we believe have experienced the effects of systemic anti-Black racism. More than just financial support, we’re working closely with Academy Prep to create opportunities to help students succeed. To support the school’s tutoring program, the academy is opening more volunteer spots for our colleagues to tutor students to help them graduate.
Importantly, graduation is not the final metric for Academy Prep. The goal is to help students succeed long after they’ve left the program.
As such, we’re working closely with the school’s Graduate Support Services—a program that remains connected with students after they graduate the Academy that supports them through their high school and college education. Through this program, we’re working to create internship opportunities for future graduates at our offices around the country. Building a successful STEM career, or any career for that matter, begins with making connections to industry professionals early on, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. The bridge we build through our donations and volunteer work will help turn today’s students into future interns and full-time STEM professionals.
This type of long-term follow through support for minority students is as important as the education they receive in the classroom and is vital to improving inclusion and diversity in STEM fields. We know that one donation and volunteer work cannot solve racial and social injustice overnight. Ending the racial divide in education and career opportunities requires persistent and compassionate effort. This is Stantec’s commitment to our community, not just in Tampa, but around the globe. We will continue to work to support communities of color and advocate for social justice in all that we do.