This year marks the 17th anniversary of National Black Business Month, devoted to supporting and celebrating black-owned businesses across the country. National Black Business Month was founded in August 2004 to drive the policy agenda affecting the 2.6 million African-American businesses.
Join us as we commemorate this event honoring two African-American business leaders.
Special thanks to our "Sponsor of the Month" for sharing his inspiring story. Read the background story of Byron Lars, President of In Earnest, Inc.
In this issue we highlight a mission-driven nonprofit founded by an African-American woman who is "Making A Difference" (MAD) transforming the lives of underserved students in low-income communities through STEM programming.
Written by Pat Craddick
Yvonne Thevenot is the Founder and Executive Director of STEM Kids NYC, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides a year-round intensive suite of STEM education programs for PreK-12 scholars.
STEM Kids NYC produces programs that enable all kids, particularly kids who live in underrepresented communities, to become the developers and architects of new technologies and engineers of new design trends that are useful for and will be adopted and used by everyone in society.
Founder / Executive Director
Comprised of educators, engineers, computer scientists and systems programmers, the organization exposes scholars as young as 3 to a platform that inspires them to dream up what they want to make, then enables them to build or make it using their inquiry-based curriculum and talented pool of teachers.
“We seek to fill the education gap that lies between urban school’s curriculum and the immediate need for schools to produce talent that is prepped to work in the STEM fields,” says Ms. Thevenot. “STEM is where the jobs of both today and tomorrow are and American children in our communities need these opportunities,” she added.
STEM Kids NYC builds skills to qualify students for the future opportunities that will make them employable and reduce their risk of becoming impoverished, going to jail, or being shut out of the future jobs market. “Our program teaches students how to code, immerse them in hands-on science and engineering and design activities, teach them how to build and program robots and innovate using creative technologies, using 3D print and design, virtual and augmented reality, and AI,” says Ms. Thevenot.
“My dream is that all children in PreK-12 receive an introduction and then rigorous curriculum that involves Computer Science, Engineering, and project-based critical thinking instruction when they are in school, as well in out-of-school time programs,” Ms. Thevenot added.
Asked why she started STEM Kids NYC, Ms. Thevenot says, “A few months before my father died of cancer, I decided to leave a job, where I directed STEM-based afterschool programs for a nonprofit in New York City, and launch STEM Kids NYC. My decision to leave was greatly influenced by my need to spend more time with my father who had been diagnosed with cancer. Ms. Thevenot saw the soft launch of her company as an initial effort to scale back her work hours so she can travel back and forth from New York to Ohio to see her father. “It was my father who had introduced me to computer programming when I was in 7th grade, and it was he who used to tell me often, 'You can be anything you want to be' and I believed him then as I do now,” she recalled.
It is this inner belief that Ms. Thevenot seeks to instill into the development of the STEM and STEAM programs and ensure that this belief is within those who choose to join the STEM Kids NYC team.
Before graduating with a degree in Information Systems, she experienced the perceived as well as actual isolation in her Computer Science classes and felt the same when she worked as a Systems Programmer in the IT world. “I would have been more incensed to stay in IT had I had more people who looked like me in those fields,” says Ms. Thevenot. “I witnessed firsthand the actual income disparities between black women and white men found in the IT departments of the companies I worked for and felt alone when I chose to advocate for a fair salary, as compared to my white male colleagues,” she recalled.
The Systems Programmer turned Nonprofit Executive saw all too clearly the absence of people of color in the tech industry while working in Silicon Valley. “I saw more people of color as early adopters to the software, apps, and programs produced by mostly white tech developers,” recalled Ms. Thevenot. “And, now that I'm in the education sector, I seek to reverse the trend of teaching in underrepresented communities that are likened to STEM deserts and communities where little to no STEM programs are evidenced, she added.
With this in mind and after researching and having several conversations with professionals in education, nonprofit, philanthropic, and technology spaces, Ms. Thevenot concluded that a program that exposes students as young as 6-years old is an appropriate venture to add to the tech boot camp and afterschool programs-for-youth space.
In honor of her father’s legacy and his insistence that one can be anything one chooses to be, Ms. Thevenot created this program to help the next generation of youth become the architects of the next wave of solutions that will benefit today’s and tomorrow’s societies. “I envision STEM Kids NYC to be a program that will give young, intelligent, driven kids and young adults access to this exciting and dynamic field I know as the wonderful world of STEM,” Ms. Thevenot enthusiastically added.
Asked about the program’s impact, Ms. Thevenot says, “Our programs are taught using culturally responsive and socially just education frameworks and we have seen an increased interest in STEM as it relates to our students. We have seen an increase in STEM proficiency, and we have seen our students realize that they belong in STEM because there are people who look like them who are already making significant strides and innovations in the world of STEM.
The organization’s immediate need is to find an affordable physical site to accommodate their year-round programs, integrating in the communities where their students reside or attend school.
Email POP Social Enterprise to find out how you can partner with us to support this nonprofit.
Visit STEM Kids NYC to learn more and inquire how to help them directly.
Donate directly to this nonprofit.
Read their story online.