New scholars program targeting low-income students to encourage careers in STEM

Bureau Veritas, the STEM Educational Institute and Madison Square Boys & Girls Club have partnered to launch the STEM Scholars Program.

Looking through the lens of setting students up for success in a future career, access and income directly correlate to one’s ability to advance. Children from a low socioeconomic background can struggle to not only get in, but also complete college.

According to the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families, only 30% of high-ability eighth graders from low-income families complete college. Attending college and getting a bachelor’s degree typically allows students to earn more than an individual who only completes high school.

When you layer in a career in STEM, according to the Department of Education, low-income students as well as BIPOC students have less access to advanced math and science classes. From STEM camps for high school students to coding bootcamps that create access (and jobs) for Black and brown kids, these pipelines are helping to close the gap.

The testing, inspection, and certification company Bureau Veritas has partnered with the STEM Educational Institute and Madison Square Boys & Girls Club to create a scholars program to expose low-income students to skills and opportunities for a STEM career. theGrio connected with Theresa Anderson, Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Sales Operations at Buruea Veritas, as well as Nikisha Alcindor, founder and president of the STEM Educational Institute, for details about the program, current successes, and the long-term vision.

Black college students
Photo: Adobe Stock

The scholars program was birthed out of a continued partnership between Natalia Shuman, CEO of Bureau Veritas America, and Alcindor, as the two had worked together in the past.

“As a former volunteer and trustee of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, this partnership was essential as they serve as a critical leader in the communities we serve,” Alcindor explains. “In my former role as Executive Director and Developer of the Columbia Girls in STEM Initiative, I worked with Natalia Shuman, CEO, Bureau Veritas America, as a speaker and sponsor. It was natural for Natalia and me to continue as partners with Bureau Veritas. Their commitment to a STEM-equipped diverse workforce aligns closely with that of the STEM Educational Institute.”

Anderson echoes, “We chose the STEM Educational Institute because of their mission to transform lives through STEM education. Their mission and values strongly align to our social responsibility goals at Bureau Veritas and we are proud to partner with them to support young scholars in the communities we serve.”

The Bureau Veritas STEM Scholars Program launched with its inaugural cohort of 15 students that were selected from an application process through Madison Square Boys & Girls Club. Launching at the end of June, the one-week program consisted of an in-person curriculum focusing on STEM and coding skills, while also providing students with financial stability via a stipend and even a scholarship toward a 529 savings plan for college.

Lastly, taking the pandemic into account and how it disproportionately affects low-income communities, the program offers mental health resources including study strategies and teaching stress management skills.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis and racial discourse across the country, many educational systems struggled to provide students with STEM education,” explains Alcindor. “However, after the shutdown of 2020, the disparities in education became alarmingly clear without a practical solution. The STEM Educational Institute’s one-week program bridges the gap in STEM.”

According to Anderson, the students responded positively to the curriculum and being exposed to opportunities of what a STEM education can provide.

She elaborated, “Seeing that ‘Aha’ moment with the students as really exciting for us because you can see their view of STEM expanding right before our eyes. Yes, STEM means you can pursue a profession as a doctor, but STEM also means you can work with a company like Bureau Veritas to be a scientist that tests for PFAS, or you can be in the field inspecting the construction of new renewable sites.”

Though the program only met physically for a week, it does not stop there.

“We are committed to our students’ long-term success, so we are building engagement programming to provide resources and training to our scholars throughout the year,” Anderson shares. “Our plan is to ensure we stay connected to the students to provide them with additional resources, such as mentorship with our Bureau Veritas leaders, access to webinars, and other resources.”

The goal is to continue to grow the organization and Anderson expresses that her team has “learned a lot of important lessons” through the first cohort and “look forward to developing a long term program.”

While the program is developing in real time, things like a book club has begun. The students are reading The Little Book That Still Beats The Market, which was donated by Joel Greenbalt.

The program is relying heavily on donations, Alcindor reveals, “up to 60% of all donations go directly to students’ college savings plan to pay for college.” The program won’t reveal the stipend amount distributed to students; however, if you are interested in helping this program thrive, feel free to donate here.

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