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From the Desk of the CIO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Nancy Williams

Note from Interface Web School’s Managing Director, Shonna Dorsey:

The following post is from my mentor, friend and colleague – Nancy Williams, CIO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands. Interface and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands are partnering to develop a program called the Midwest STEM Academy. In this post, Nancy shares details about the partnership and ways in which this program can positively impact our youth and community overall.

Click here to learn more about the program.

08dfe7eAt the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Inc. (BGCM) we provide several STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) related programs that engage youth. We believe that STEM training and programs have the ability to positively impact youth from preschool to postsecondary to career and include entrepreneurship opportunities. Basic technology training is provided through homework help and access to computers and technology devices. BGCM uses self-guided and instructor led training from several sources including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Codecademy, and Cisco Networking Academy.

From foundational technology exposure to visual programming, technology skills and training provides our members the opportunity to be content creators instead of just consumers. Engagement in STEM related programming provides members with critical learning and career development skills. The training in a non-traditional setting also provides an opportunity for members to experience working on projects common to current popular technology working environments.

According to the Federal STEM Education strategic plan, investment in STEM education is critical for 3 reasons:
jobs of the future are STEM jobs; our youth are not excelling in STEM disciplines when compared internationally; and progress in STEM is critical to building a just and inclusive society.

CBhourofcode1The 2013 Nebraska Higher Education Progress Report states that Nebraska has a significant number of students that continue to drop out of high school, lessening their likelihood of financial and academic successes and reducing the pool of students who could go to college. According to the same report, only 12% of Hispanics, 9% of Native Americans and 5% of blacks in the graduating class of 2012 met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks for all four subject-matter tests. With a deficit of employable STEM workers and an abundance of unemployed/underemployed youth and young adults, an effective measurable replicable framework for youth and employment programs can make a huge impact in high unemployment among this group of citizens while improving lifelong employability.

In the past year, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands has run STEM Academy pilot projects. After one of those projects here is what we found:
  1. Using survey responses and quizzes/exams within the curriculum showed an increase in ability and desire to use computers for more than playing games and social media.
  2. Greater than 30% of participants increased confidence in development of presentation and project management skills.
  3. Participants reported that teamwork and hands-on activities were what they liked best about the academy. Staff noted that participants worked well together in small groups, even when not in STEM Academy programs. 90% of participants stated they would recommend STEM Academy to their friends.
  4. Participants in the digital arts activities with photography and filming were responsible for capturing photos and video during the organizational spelling bee as a service project within the Club.

Success2013-1editThe Midwest STEM Academy will build on what we know from research in STEM and youth development, what we have witnessed in our local pilot programs, and what we have learned from other STEM programs in other cities. We believe that our summer pilot in partnership with Interface Web School will provide the opportunity to figure out what works for our local communities and neighborhoods to replicate the experience for other youth as we scale to ensure that all youth are prepared for STEM so that they have the opportunity to choose how they want to engage in STEM.

Examples of programs that are making an impact in other cities:

Genesys Works  | Mission: Genesys Works is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that enables inner-city high school students to break through barriers and discover through meaningful work experience that they can succeed as professionals in the corporate world.

Per Scholas | Mission: Break the cycle of poverty by providing technology education, access, training and job placement services for people in underserved communities.

Hack the Hood | Hack the Hood is an award-winning non-profit that introduces low-income youth of color to careers in tech by hiring and training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities.  In addition to relevant technical skills, youth also learn critical leadership, entrepreneurship, and life skills under the guidance of staff members and volunteer mentors who are professionals working in the field.

Nancy Williams, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Chief Information Officer