Sanders hosts STEAM forum in Rosedale

A robot on display at the STEAM presentation, courtesy of the Zion Youth S.T.E.M. Academy.
Photo by Naeisha Rose
By Patrick Donachie

Speakers at a Rosedale forum Saturday hoped to spark the imaginations of students and parents in potential future careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. State Sen. James Sanders (D-Far Rockaway), who hosted the meeting, said it was important for schools to prepare students for the burgeoning fields of the future.

“The reason we are here is that we realize the future is now,” Sanders said. “Anybody who is talking about preparing for the future has already missed it. We have to do everything possible to get ourselves into the 21st century, and we are late. We have to push harder. Our young scholars deserve every opportunity that there is.”

Dozens of families attended the event, which was held at St. Clare Catholic Academy in Rosedale Saturday afternoon. The city has placed an emphasis on STEM education, with some proponents adding “arts” to the equation.

Computer science educator Mariann Cantanzaro said STEAM education was about “trial and error,” offering practical and innovative approaches to problems, while presenter Samantha Kendrick, a structural engineer, said the STEAM career paths often do not have high rates of employment by women or people of color. She stressed that students needed to continue to chase their passions.

“We cannot let the lack of people of color in these fields infiltrate how we feel about ourselves,” she said. “Whether we want to draw comic books or become astronauts, it’s so important to remember that – yes, we can – and continue to live with that idea of black excellence.”

Danillo Archbold, the CEO and co-founder of Zion STEAM Academy, said the United States ranked 36th in the world in terms of students graduating with math and science degrees, and he said less than 3 percent of African-Americans were involved in STEM-related fields.

Kendrick, who pointed to the story of the film “Hidden Figures” about three black women mathematicians working at NASA as a tale of inspiration for budding scientists, paraphrased Henry Ford in her call for students to remain determined.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t,” she said, “you’re right.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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