BHM 2021
Discovery Education hosts event to celebrate Black leaders in STEM

Uni Blake, a senior policy advisor at API/STEM Careers Coalition

The Discovery Education STEM Careers Coalition is celebrating Black History Month by offering resources that shine a spotlight on today’s African American leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Coalition, a dynamic collaboration of industry partners, hosted a Black Leaders in STEM Professional Development event on Feb. 16.

Chevron, Boeing, the American Petroleum Institute (API), Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Caterpillar Foundation, the Manufacturing Institute, The National After School Association, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) displayed how they are using their STEM skills to make a difference and introduce students to STEM.

“The members of the STEM Careers Coalition want to prepare all students for future success, and they believe STEM education helps, no matter what career and life choices students make after graduation,” Marla Wilson, executive director of the STEM Careers Coalition, told NNPA Newswire.

“I have always been interested in understanding how communities coexist with industrial activities,” said Uni Blake, a senior policy advisor at API.

“As I was growing in my career, there were very few minorities in STEM careers working in the Oil and Gas Industry who I could turn to for advice about opportunities and career paths. Protecting health is a high priority for the oil and gas industry, and as an example, my work includes addressing issues and concerns facing minority communities who coexist with industry operations and facilities.”

Wilson said the Coalition seeks to inspire students to consider careers in one of the growing STEM fields.

“Each member of the Coalition believes that all students should have the opportunity and resources to reach their fullest potential as they explore the wide world of STEM careers and see how STEM fits into their futures,” she stated.

Wilson works with the business community to grow the STEM pipeline, helping to prepare 10 million students for careers in the field.

Born in Las Vegas, Wilson worked for the ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign at the American Heart Association, and as executive director with Miami March of Dimes. She graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Communications degree.

Wilson said Discovery Education began a coalition model three years ago.

“We began thinking about the strength in numbers approach, and the coalition model was pretty much birthed to engage a number of companies working toward solving one particular problem. And so, with the STEM Careers Coalition, we are solving problems, invigorating and filling the future workforce pipeline with a diverse group of professionals,” she said.

The Coalition that includes Chevron, Boeing, Microsoft, ASME, and API, kicked off in 2019. After the pandemic began in early 2020, the Coalition launched ‘COVID-19 Solution Seekers,’ a video series that spotlighted how nonprofits, corporations, and industries pivot to meet the needs presented by COVID-19.

“What I love about this dynamic network is that we can create resources and a curriculum up to the minute based on what we’re dealing with right now,” Wilson said.

“We want to connect and be as relatable as we possibly can be to students and educators. And so, at the onset of this pandemic, we were in video production. We were producing career profiles of STEM professionals from diverse backgrounds talking about their careers and their educational pathways. When the pandemic hit, there were a lot of questions about the coronavirus and what we were doing as a community to solve the multiple problems that it began to create. And the Solution Seekers series would evolve out of that.

“We found that we could use this as an opportunity to really outline to students STEM at work on an everyday basis.”

Wilson concluded that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of STEM in minority communities.

She said it is a principal goal of the coalition.

“We wanted to make sure that we had an intentional focus on students of color, particularly those from the African diaspora, Latino and Hispanic communities, and female students,” she said.

“These are the most highly underrepresented group in the STEM workforce. So, this [coalition] is bridging that divide and helping all of these students connect to STEM.”

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