By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
Females only – third and fifth graders, students of color, from Jackson Public Schools and surrounding area have a friend in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
While the NSBE acknowledges that a significant disparity persists in the STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – participation rates among African Americans, it has not taken this bleak assessment lying down.
One of its signature programs, Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), has been in operation since 2007 in many inner cities across the country. There are SEEK programs operating this summer in Brooklyn, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Oakland, San Diego and Washington, D.C., where it started.
This year, SEEK comes home to Mississippi. Funding has been provided by Northrop Grumman Foundation, which supports innovative education experiences in the STEM courses. The NSBE lead in Jackson is by persons with ties to the state.
Dr. Carl B. Mack, executive director of NSBE and a native Mississippian, announced the SEEK program Wednesday, March 20, at New Hope Baptist Church, 5202 Watkins Dr., in Jackson. “The new Middle Class of America must be technologically trained,” he said.
Mack lamented over the great media attention that captures every negative act in the black neighborhood, when so few showed up to witness the efforts to change the lives of particularly black girls in Mississippi – one little girl at a time.
The free first-come first serve three-week summer program (no testing required) is open to females only. It is a hands-on engineering design curriculum developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers International.
One of the projects for the summer, Mack announced, will be for the girls to build an
automobile run completely on solar energy. The second summer project for each girl to formulate their own perfume was introduced by Sade Ruffin from Boston, Mass., who is working on her Ph.D. in chemical engineering, the only female enrolled in the study at that level.
Ruffin will come to Jackson during the summer interchanging time spent here with 49 other female NSBE engineers who will come to teach and mentor the girls.
In her Ph.D. studies, Ruffin is working on new technology for DNA sequencing where drugs can be specifically tailored to meet a body’s unique structuring and reactions to the drug.
Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. welcomed Mack, Ruffin and the SEEK staff to Jackson and commended New Hope Baptist Church for hosting the summer program. New Hope, under the leadership of Pastor Jerry Young, has operated an onsite school for 30 years.
“Jackson’s infrastructure will need civil engineers at work and will require $1 billion in spending over the next 10 years. With the education possibilities for these young people, Mississippi will not have to import talent; it will be home grown,” Johnson said.
Mack said his motivation is to “come back and give back” to the Mississippi he grew up in. He greeted his former principal Charles Tillman, who is now city councilman for Ward 5. Tillman is entering his third campaign for the council seat.
While the girls will enter the SEEK program free of charge, NSBE has committed $100,000 for instructors’ stipends in Mississippi alone. The program will run June 24 – July 12, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The only requirement: mandatory attendance of parent at orientation.
Attending the announcement along with the New Hope Baptist Church staff was Dominick Sanders, a senior and JSU president of the NSBE.
“Mississippi is not known for these type programs; it’s more known for a lack of education in math and science. This is definitely a great start. The JSU NSBE also has a junior chapter that mentors grades 5 though 12 and works with students in ACT tests preparations,” Sanders said.
Sanders welcomed interested students – male and female through 12th grade – to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professional and positively impact the community.”
For SEEK’s 300 girls registration forms and information, go to https://nsbe.org/seek.aspx