As a Black woman with over 30 years of experience as an engineer, nothing brings me more joy than watching my twins build their respective interests in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field.
To support my kids’ interests and academic development, I enrolled them in STEM-related Out-of-School Time (OST) programs at a young age. In their early years, my son participated in programs related to his interests in robotics and computers, and my daughter’s interests led her to participate in OST programs focusing on animal sciences.
Through these OST programs, my kids have experienced an abundance of opportunities. My son’s love for mechanical engineering led him to a community-based STEM OST program where his robotics team participated in several competitions, including a worlds competition where he competed against teams from around the globe. My daughter’s participation in agricultural-focused OST programs connected her with experts who work across the US, expanding her knowledge, understanding, and passion for a field she intends to pursue.
Because of my STEM background, I was fortunate to gain access to the types of enrichment programs my kids were interested in, especially when my kids were in middle school and had aged out of traditional after-school and summer programs. Despite the opportunities my kids are afforded, I recognize this is not the case for all of DC kids, so we need to do more so the hopes we have for ALL kids to succeed becomes a reality.
In our Statement of Beliefs on OST Programs, parent leaders share a vision that includes every family receiving access to a high-quality OST program that supports their children’s needs and passions. We can make this happen here in the District by emphasizing two of our crucial policy solutions in the FY24 budget:
- Increase access to OST programs by making sure families have access to quality programs in convenient locations that meet their needs
- Expanding access to scholarships, vouchers, and financial aid.
Dedicated funding ensures that our students and families most in need receive the scholarships they need to access the programs and opportunities they deserve. If we continue to create and provide unaffordable OST programs to families, our kids will suffer.
We currently see an academic decline in STEM-related subjects. According to DC’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) results for 2021-22, just 19% of DC students who took the Math PARCC assessment were at or above grade level. In the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test, DC’s scores for math saw a 12-point decline in fourth grade and 9.7 point decline in eighth grade, respectively.
It goes beyond academics; without access to affordable OST programs, I worry about how kids will utilize their time when not in school. Our leaders recognize the issue of juvenile crime in DC. We can respond to this issue by providing affordable and attainable OST programs and strengthening kids’ connection to our community.
Now’s the time to redesign the cost structure and requirements for financial aid programs so our children and families can access the high-quality OST programs they deserve. Together, we can provide our children a safe & structured environment that will help them succeed in our global society as they learn and grow.
STEM Programs for Youth –