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From Classroom to Career: STEAM Initiatives Aim to Bridge The Career Gap

Op-Ed: STEAM education creates a pipeline for Back and Latinx students to thrive in the tech industry.
Brooklyn Lab students in a STEAM class.

As the new middle school principal at Brooklyn Lab, I'm brimming with excitement about the future of our school. But this enthusiasm isn't built on empty promises. It's fueled by a vision where Brooklyn Lab becomes a beacon of STEAM education, empowering our scholars to not just dream big, but achieve extraordinary things.

STEAM, for the uninitiated, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. It's a dynamic approach to learning that transcends siloed subjects, fostering creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These are precisely the tools students need to navigate an ever-evolving world and thrive in college and beyond.

In today’s dynamic world, STEAM education is not just an academic pursuit; it is a critical pathway to future success. A strong foundation in STEAM during middle school lays the groundwork for seamless high school transitions and college readiness. It is during these formative years that students develop the critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills essential for thriving in STEAM fields. 

Studies show that careers in STEM fields are among the fastest growing and most lucrative, yet there is a stark lack of diversity within these industries. African Americans and Latinos hold a mere 3% of engineering jobs – a statistic that demands our attention. 

At Brooklyn Lab, we have partnered with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering students through transformative STEAM education, to make sure a STEAM curriculum is available to all children from different backgrounds.

With courses providing our students with practical skills and tools to solve real-world problems, these programs are designed to stimulate collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Whether it’s designing a new app, building a robot or developing a business plan, these hands-on experiences are invaluable in preparing our scholars with practical experience that is directly applicable to future careers.

We envision this curriculum partnership creating a pipeline for Black and Latinx students to thrive in the tech industry. By providing access to high-quality STEAM education, we are not only equipping our scholars with the skills they need to succeed but also shaping a more inclusive and diverse future for the next generation of the STEAM leaders powering the 21st century workforce. 

We invite parents, local businesses and community leaders to join us in this effort. Here's how you can make a real difference:

  • Parents: Become STEAM champions at home! Encourage your children to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. There are many resources available online and at your local library to spark curiosity and fuel discovery. You can also volunteer your time to assist with classroom projects or after-school programs.
  • Local Businesses: Invest in the future of Brooklyn's tech industry. Partner with Brooklyn Lab to provide mentorship opportunities, guest speaker sessions, or internship programs. Your expertise and connections can be invaluable in guiding our students towards successful careers in STEM fields.
  • Community Leaders: Advocate for STEAM education at the local level. Spread the word about Brooklyn Lab's innovative program and the importance of diversifying the tech workforce. Consider sponsoring scholarships or fundraising initiatives to ensure all students have access to these enriching opportunities.

Together, we can lead the way with STEAM education and create a brighter, more equitable future for all. Together, we can bridge the gap in tech careers and empower underrepresented voices to shape the future. Let's unlock that potential, together.

Shawn Harris is the middle school principal at Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School in DUMBO. Born and raised in New York, Harris previously served as Brooklyn LAB’s Director of Culture, Dean of Students and Athletic Director - with more than a decade of founding and leading initiatives to provide college prep, financial literacy and athletic opportunities to New York’s scholars.