June 20, 2016

Expanding Horizons with STEM Education

“It gave me the feeling that if I could do this, then I could do anything.” – Tenderly Diaz, age 15.

“It gave me the feeling that if I could do this, then I could do anything.” – Tenderly Diaz, age 15.

The end of the school year is approaching, which is an opportunity for students in HUD-assisted communities to continue their education outside the classroom. Throughout the country, HUD convenes a growing number of students for workshops focusing on STEM— Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—through partnerships with STEM Innovation Networks and public housing agencies.

These workshops provide middle school students with enrichment activities, high school students with paid internships, and college students with STEM scholarships and job placement assistance, in addition to mentorship from community coaches.

Twelve-year-old LeVar Tyson-Ames, III, who lives in HUD-assisted housing in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a STEM participant. After learning that his grandfather had been paralyzed from cancer, LeVar was inspired to learn how to use technology to help people. “I came up with an idea for all the other cancer patients who can’t walk, to make a robot that would allow them to walk,” he explains.

LeVar hopes that the values that he takes away from each workshop will carry him far into the future. “Hopefully, in five to ten years I will have helped people who have cancer, people who can’t afford gas, who can’t buy a house, who can’t do any of those things.”

“I found my light in robotics. It has really helped shape my life to where I am now." –LeVar Tyson-Ames, III, age 12.

“I found my light in robotics. It has really helped shape my life to where I am now.” –LeVar Tyson-Ames, III, age 12.

When describing HUD as the Department of Opportunity, Secretary Julián Castro has stated, “Our nation must make the investments necessary to prepare youth to compete in our 21st century global economy. That means we must cultivate brainpower and match it to economic opportunity. We must also create enrichment opportunities for young people outside of the classroom.”

According to the US Department of Education, only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. That’s why HUD is working on STEM and other initiatives to support students’ futures, including ConnectHome – which connects HUD-assisted households with low-cost, high-speed Internet access, devices, and digital literacy.

Not only is HUD’s support of STEM providing students with educational opportunities, but it is also changing their lives.

Fifteen-year-old Tenderly Diaz, who lives in HUD-assisted housing in Hampton, Virginia, has been a STEM scholar since 2013. Tenderly describes building her first robot at a STEM workshop, “I felt smart. It was something new and something that I have never done before.” Since then, Tenderly has won several individual and team awards during STEM workshops and events.

Through these events, Tenderly has learned to collaborate with fellow students to accomplish a common goal. “It taught me how to communicate well with other people in order to be our best.”

With newfound skills and confidence, Tenderly feels empowered to reach for her dreams. “I see myself graduating college as a double major. I want to major in Film Directing and also major in Civil Engineering.”

All children need safe, affordable, and stable housing as a foundation for their healthy development and upward mobility. Yet the vast majority of low-income children in this country lack this basic support. HUD’s mission ultimately is about closing this gap to ensure that all children, in all communities, can reach their full potential.

Through our affordable housing programs and public-private partnerships for STEM, ConnectHome, and other educational initiatives, we are making a difference!

For more information about HUD’s STEM efforts, contact Jerryl E. Bennett at (202) 402‑4120 or via email at jerryl.e.bennett@hud.gov.

Lourdes Castro Ramirez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.

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