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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Activities & Organizations

STEM Zone Saturday help kids pursue a future in the field


Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

In their mission to inspire young minds in pursuing careers in STEM, the UH STEM Center has been gathering elementary, middle and high school students in the area to participate in the STEM Zone Saturday program.

Held seven times a year, STEM Zone Saturday unites students in grades one through 12 from the Third and Fifth Wards to converse with keynote speakers and engage in STEM-related activities.

“We wanted to give our students in public housing provisions of exposure to different STEM careers so that they have as many equitable opportunities as their peers,” said interim executive director of the UH STEM center Heather Domjan.

The UH STEM Center’s partnership with Kids’ Lives Matter and Power for Life ministries formed in 2018, which is also when the conversation about supporting students in underserved communities around Houston began.

The founders of Kids’ Lives Matter recognized that many of the students in their community weren’t being challenged or given the opportunity to focus on STEM in school.  

This is where the UH STEM Zone took an important step in challenging students and providing this necessary exposure from a young age.

“Often times, instructors must teach to standardized tests, or they’re not able to spend much time on a particular topic,” said founder and executive director of Kids’ Lives Matter Catherine Smith “STEM zone allows students to go more in-depth and move into higher-level thinking, such as analytical and problem solving skills, which students desperately need.”

When picking guest speakers, Domjan explains that not only do they seek qualified individuals in STEM, they also seek individuals who they believe would resonate well with the students.

“Representation really matters and it is important that our students are exposed to and see individuals who look like them in terms of their background or gender in STEM careers,” said co-director of Power4Life Minsitries Madelyn Traylor.

Kids’ Lives Matter currently has a presence on four continents, and plans to continue expanding globally.  They also plan to pitch a few new ideas to elected officials, which may allow them to build an international school with wraparound humanitarian services in the near future, according to the organization.

For many young students, STEM Zone Saturday was their first opportunity to step foot on a college campus and join the UH community.  Their goal with this initiative is to raise lifetime Cougars who will continue giving back to the community long after graduation.

“This has not only exposed our students to science, technology, engineering and math, but it has also allowed our students to be exposed to what their future could look like,” Traylor said.

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