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For Black boys who dream of becoming engineers and scientists instead of pro ballers, life is suddenly about to change.

At a time when skyrocketing Black youth employment and gangs driving up the homicide rates dominating the news, it’s refreshing to hear about programs like The Minority Male Makers Program that is designed to uplift, educate and empower Black and Hispanic boys — especially when these initiatives in advance technology are being created at historically Black colleges.

The Minority Male Makers Program – a partnership between Verizon and HBCU’s — is a first-of-its-kind two-year program that offers 700 Black male students hands-on experience in critical thinking and problem solving in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The program will enable them to compete in a digital world and fast-paced global marketplace.

From May 2015 through December 2017, according to Verizon officials,  boys of color at 15 middle schools will learn a range of STEM disciplines such as app design, app development, basic coding, 3-D-Modeling, 3-D-Design, 3-D-Printing and Robotics.

The program will be offered to high-achieving African American and Hispanic seventh and eighth grade students on the campuses of four historically black colleges — Morgan State University, Jackson State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Kentucky State University.

Ayooluwakiitan Oluwafemi, a 13-year-old middle school student from Baltimore, Maryland, proudly displayed a rubber smart phone case that he designed from a state-of-the-art 3-D printing machine.

“It’s a prototype,” Oluwafemi said softly during a recent event at Morgan State University in Baltimore where college officials announced the unique partnership. “My old phone case was really messed up.”

Oluwafemi wants to be an entrepreneur. He refuses to take any money from his mother to go to the movies – or any social events — because he wants to earn his own cash and become a self-made millionaire by developing and selling cutting-edge 3-D apps.

Morgan State administrators and Black engineers say the new initiative is necessary because male students of color are severely underrepresented in STEM fields.

Dr. Eugene DeLoatch, Professor and Founding Dean of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering at Morgan State University, said African-American men comprise only three percent of the nation’s engineers and that percentage, he said, hasn’t changed much over the years.

“That’s a crime,” said DeLoatch, a past resident of the American Society of Engineering Education. DeLoatch was the first African-American to lead ASEE in the organization’s 109-year history.

“This is what we do: we develop talent,” he said. “This is exciting stuff.”

He said Black boys and men can help lead the world in developing groundbreaking technology if given the instruction, consideration, and academic opportunities.

Dr. Dontae Ryan, President and Chief Technical Officer of DLR Technology, said the goal of the Minority Male Makers Program is to empower students by offering them lifelong technology and entrepreneurial skills.

“They need role models. Programs like this are very important,” Ryan said. “It lets students know what is possible; they can become engineers and mathematicians.”

For Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation, which allocated $400,000 for the program, the merger between Verizon and Morgan State University will provide long-term professional opportunities.

“What we found is that nobody is paying attention to little Black boys and to little Hispanic boys,” she said, “and they deserve the same opportunities that so many other kids have.”

What do you think?

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