Fostering Diverse and Inclusive Learning Spaces for Black Youth in STEM

February 16, 2022

From January 19-21, 2022, the Actua community joined together virtually for Actua’s 2022 National Network Member Conference. The conference welcomed 121 network delegates, 38 network members, 16 teachers and 17 speakers to discuss hot topics in STEM education like digital equity, digital agriculture and Black youth in Science and Engineering.

On the third day of the conference, Jennifer Ladipo, National Program Manager at Actua and D’Andre Wilson, President and Managing Director, BrainSTEM Alliance, joined together to discuss the importance of fostering diverse and inclusive spaces for Black youth in STEM. Together, they highlighted various ways we can meaningfully work together to support Black youth in STEM.

Black Youth in STEM: A Conversation with D’Andre Wilson

Don’t have time to watch the whole video? We’ve shared some of our key takeaways below:

Build Confidence and Resilience Young

“My parents have always encouraged us to be curious. Science was something my parents continued to explore and experiment with,” says D’Andre.  

Parents and teachers play a fundamental role in developing a child’s self-esteem. Black youth face multiple barriers, including Anti- Black racism and systemic racism that can often stunt a child’s self-esteem. Robyn Maynard states in The Walrus that Black youth continue to be disproportionately streamed into lower education tracks as a result of both individual prejudice and systemic factors. It’s important to foster an environment where Black youth feel valued and encouraged. When a child feels more confidence and encouragement from key influencers like parents and educators, they are more

Build a Community

Building a strong community of like-minded individuals is essential for Black youth. Community is often central to a young person’s social and cultural experiences, which we know can significantly shape who we are and who we become. The National Society for Engineers at Mcgill University is just one of many academic organizations encouraging Black students to pursue science and engineering. 

“When I was at NSBE, trying to build and form a community for Black engineers and build a pipeline for the next generation of engineers was a big part of overcoming barriers,” says D’Andre. 

Surrounding yourself with people who share the same values and can advocate on your behalf can help affirm your goals and confidence.

Representation

Representation also plays a massive role in encouraging Black youth to pursue STEM.

We need that sense of relatability. The kids need to see you and think, wow, I can be you.

Jennifer Ladipo

For many Black youth growing up in Canada, seeing leaders and educators that look like you in STEM communities can help foster a sense of belonging and fuel plans for the future. Studies conducted by the University of Victoria states that members of underrepresented groups often reported experiencing an unwelcoming climate in STEM programs which negated a positive educational experience and supportive learning environment. Once systemic barriers are identified in STEM communities, we can work to increase representation and provide equitable opportunities for Black youth to thrive.

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