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STEM (Science. Technology. Engineering. Mathematics.)


STEM kids

Closing the Gap for Underserved Young People

STEM is serious business, especially for America’s young people. They need to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics if they hope one day to compete on the world’s stage. The YMCA of Greater New York, as the city’s largest youth services organization, has a valuable role to play in introducing young people to technical fields, spurring their interest, and showing them that they can transcend socioeconomic barriers to have rewarding futures.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that workers in the STEM subjects typically earn 26 percent more than people with comparable experience in other fields. And, even in a challenging economic climate, we are still seeing projections that over one million STEM-related jobs will go unfilled in this country by 2018.


But there is a terrible gap that affects young people in underserved urban neighborhoods, excluding them from the opportunities of the STEM world:
  • Their schools are underfunded, lacking the teaching staff and equipment essential to STEM education.
  • They do not see successful role models in science and technical fields. The pioneers and entrepreneurs of technology, in particular, appear to come from more privileged backgrounds.
  • They face more immediate realities: crime, gangs, drugs, and households in struggle.
The consequences are stark. U.S. Census data for one section of North Central Harlem, for example, showed that 72 percent of third graders failed to meet New York State’s standards for proficiency in mathematics. By seventh grade, the number rose to 80 percent.


STEM Stats
The New York Y is determined to help close the opportunity gap.
A program that brings people with careers in science and technology to speak to students enrolled in after-school programs organized by the Y in different parts of the City, with an emphasis on underserved neighborhoods. The students may range in age from second grade through high school. Subjects are chosen by the speakers; the unifying theme is TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO TAKE AN INTEREST IN TECHNOLOGICAL SUBJECTS, and see that such passions can lead to satisfying, empowering careers. Ten-week programs that are offered every school day from 3-6 p.m. at after-school sites run by the Y. Intended for children between Kindergarten and sixth grade, the Y After School Academy prides itself on a student-to-staff ratio of 10:1. In addition to supplementing what they learn in school, students get assistance with their homework from trained YMCA staff, and form long-lasting friendships that ENHANCE THEIR DEVELOPMENT, GROWTH AND SELF-CONFIDENCE.
STEM photos
(left) ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos with Y Teens at West Side YMCA. (center) Author Ned Potter with students at P.S. 96 in New York City. (right) Blackstone’s Chief Technology Officer Bill Murphy visits YMCA Chinatown.
(Left ) Debra Kriensky, Conservation Biologist, New York City Audubon visit the McBurney Y. (Center) Flushing Y Kids talk STEM with General Atlantic's Casey Santos. (Right) McBurney Y Scholars check in at Facebook for STEM talk.
These programs are diverse in scope and approach, but unified in their purpose to promote the STEM fields to the City’s next generation. It is an essential mission ofthe NYC Y to show young people that their futures are filled with possibilities. While all of these students have likely studied science and math during school hours, the Y’s programs give them a second, complementary venue, one that may be more fun and more welcoming.

The Y offers an after-school curriculum that focuses on learning enhancement, building competence and confidence. It exposes them to ideas and experiences they may not get from their course work. In the STEM fields especially, it allows them to explore, freely and at low risk.

The YMCA of Greater New York serves the entire city, and does not limit its services to any particular group. It believes that opportunities ought to be open to all. In the sciences and in technical fields especially, though, two important needs come together:

  • Young people, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, may not recognize that these fields are possibilities for them.
  • The STEM disciplines need young people to become the workers of the future. Further, the nation needs upcoming generations to understand science and technology so that, as a society, we make intelligent decisions about important matters.