Science, technology, engineering, and math skills can bridge gaps in education and employment – and now, they’re keeping children connected to both their friends and their futures. Thanks to a partnership with STEM Kids NYC, YWCA Dayton is able to offer coding classes free of charge and 100 percent online to children in our domestic violence shelter and Girls LEAD! program.
STEM Kids NYC was founded in 2015 to address the lack of STEM programs for students living in Harlem. Today, the nonprofit provides dozens of in-person and online classes each week for students from preschool to high school, from Brooklyn to Dayton, in subjects like science, engineering, design, and robotics – plus creative technologies like 3D printing and augmented reality.
“STEM is extremely important to youth, especially for girls and children of color. Most jobs of tomorrow that will allow people to thrive economically will be in STEM fields,” explains Yvonne Thevenot, founder and executive director of STEM Kids NYC. “Knowing how to code, knowing scientific concepts, having hands-on experience in using the scientific method, knowing how to innovate: these are all very important to empowering youth to thrive in our future economy as productive citizens.”
A Springfield, Ohio, native and University of Dayton graduate, Thevenot especially understands the impact these skills can have on Miami Valley students.
“When I was six years old, my father bought me my first microscope, with slides written in Latin. When I was 11, my father introduced me to computer science. I grew up with him telling me I could be anything I wanted to be – and I believed him,” Thevenot said. “As a woman of color, I envision continuing the legacy of care, hope, encouragement, and opportunity given to me by my father, and using the gifts God gave me to create academic opportunities for children in our communities.”
More than 30 children have participated in the virtual sessions, which are offered weekly and tailored to a variety of age and skill levels. From coding their own apps to building their own virtual games, according to Children’s Case Manager Chanelle Hobbs, the feedback has been enthusiastic.
“Parents are very excited for their children to learn computer science, and the children are very eager to learn and have been talking to their parents about all they want to learn,” said Hobbs, who noted that she’s even picked up some coding skills herself.
Adds Destinye Arnold, children’s program manager: “This program fits well with our youth programming because it combines education with entertainment and offers an extension to what they learn from school. STEM Kids NYC does a great job of teaching our children in such a fun environment that they don’t even realize how much they are learning or how much information is being retained.”
In fact, children’s brains are uniquely prepared for learning the new, the different, or the unfamiliar.
“Children have natural abilities for success in STEM – as early as a toddler, you see them exploring, asking ‘why,’ taking things apart and uncovering how things work, using their imagination,” Thevenot said. “If we expose our children to various activities, watch them take shape, and remain open to knowing that those interests and abilities do not have to be pigeon-holed by a limited or engendered ideology of who can do what, then all children, particularly girls and children of color, will thrive.”