Astronaut Wants More Youth in STEM

Exposure Remains Key to Increased Interest

African-American men in the District and even in outer space are leading the way in pushing for greater exposure to science, technology, engineering and math for low-income and minority youth.

Football player turned NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin, served as host of this year’s 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) experiment titled “Motion Commotion” on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Northwest.

“Oh my goodness this event is so important to the children who are our next generation of explorers,” Melvin said. “I’m 51 years old so I am not always going to be around and it’s important we introduce them to the idea that they can be our next scientist, engineers and even astronauts.”

Melvin got his start in the sciences while attending grade school when his mother bought him his first chemistry set.

“Yes, I made a fire and it burned a hole in the carpet, but what it did was introduce me to something I had never seen before,” Melvin said. “I never imagined I would be a scientist, but it was about the exposure I got. It activated my brain with the thought that I could be a scientist.”

The world’s largest youth-led science experiment group provided hundreds of elementary students the opportunity to explore all that technology has to offer.

Yousif Rajeb and Selena Lujano, both fifth graders at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., have big dreams and said they already know that science will prepare them.

“I want to be a dentist,” Yousif said. “Going to events like this little by little prepares you for high school and college.”

“I want to be in technology when I grow up,” Selena said. “I want to create my own thing and for it to become a viral sensation. I was thinking about creating a car that can turn into anything with the touch of a button.”

Joseph Samuels, a second-year science teacher at Christian Calvary Academy in Northeast decided to give back as an educator rather than using his mathematics degree in some other profession.

“I know what having great teachers did for me, and I genuinely became a teacher to possibly inspire the students,” Samuels said. “I want to expose them all to science and show them what it can do for them in life and where it can take them.

Samuels believes that the field of science has so many things to offer to his students because science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are everywhere.

“STEM is really going to be at the forefront of all industries in the coming years, therefore the exposure along with reinforcements in class will prepare them for college and careers,” he said.

The 4-H Council sponsors NYSD which stands as the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization. They serve more than six million youth across the U.S. in more than 3,000 clubs.

Melvin believes he knows one of the keys to get children invested in science.

“You have to show kids how science is everywhere and in everything they do,” Melvin said. “We have to connect it to something that is relevant to their everyday life.”

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at E-mail: Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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