How Exposure to STEM Education Changed Prince George’s County Students’ Viewpoints on Technology

Through United Way NCA’s partnership with Deloitte, over 40 students from eight Prince George’s County middle schools participated in a 12-week STEM education afterschool program.

May 27, 2021 – When it comes to careers, it’s never too early to begin thinking of what one wants to do with their future. United Way of the National Capital Area knows the data points to middle school as the beginning of the pipeline for students to succeed in college and/or their careers. Early exposure to different fields of work can make all the difference in inspiring students to think about their futures and set goals for themselves.

That’s why United Way NCA recently teamed up with Deloitte’s AI Institute for Government to offer a 12-week virtual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), one-hour, after-school program for eight Title I middle schools that are part of Prince George’s County Public Schools Community Schools. The program began in February 2021 and wrapped up in May 2021, just before the start of summer break.

“The biggest benefit [of the program] is exposure to the AI world, exposure to the world of technology, of opening students’ eyes that technology is more than just for entertainment,” says Tameka Smallwood, a science educator who has been teaching at Oxon Hill Middle School for three years, when reflecting back on the program. “The [Deloitte staff] showed how AI can be used in different careers. You aren’t limited to a tech-type career to make use or benefit from AI. This program can start to give students ideas of what they might want to do in the future.”

Kehinde Ilori and Taiwo Ilori, twin sisters and eighth-grade students at Oxon Hill Middle School who will attend Potomac High School in the fall, say the STEM program exposed them to new topics that their curriculum at school had not covered, piquing their interest and curiosity of what all STEM entails.

“I thought STEM was all about coding, so I was really surprised about that,” says Kehinde. “My STEM class at school talked about JavaScript and it’s hard, really hard. I thought this afterschool program was about coding and I didn’t want to join, but I realized that STEM isn’t just about coding. It’s about how AI can be used to make the world a better place if you use it right.”

The Ilori sisters also noted some of their favorite parts about the STEM program was the mentorship, learning from experts and being able to engage with the Deloitte staff in Zoom breakout rooms every other week. Taiwo says, “If you learned from someone who doesn’t really know that much about STEM, you would be like, ‘Oh, I don’t believe him,’ or something like that. So it’s really good that we were able to have [the Deloitte staff members’] opinions on STEM. They enjoy doing their jobs.”

Smallwood added, “The mentors are using STEM. They actually have jobs and careers in this area, and that’s a great thing because I think a lot of times our students hear these ideas of AI or STEM and they don’t really know how that translates to a career. Working with all these different professionals and them providing background information on what they do really shows students all the different areas that they can pursue. It was great that students could see how STEM translates into the careers that real people have.”

To learn more about United Way NCA’s STEM program held in partnership with Deloitte’s AI Institute for Government, please click here.

About United Way of the National Capital Area

United Way of the National Capital Area improves the health, education and economic opportunity of every person in the National Capital Area community. United Way NCA has been improving lives by creating measurable impact in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties for more than 45 years. For more information about United Way of the National Capital Area, visit UnitedWayNCA.org.

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