Verizon and Morgan State University Focus on Making More Black Engineers

by: James Bentley AFRO Associate Editor
/ “Minority Male Makers” program. (Courtesy Photo) /
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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake poses with some of the participants of the “Minority Male Makers” program. (Courtesy Photo)

Often young Black boys are underrepresented in the science and technology fields. According to the most recent data from the National Science Foundation, Blacks hold only 4.6 percent of the jobs in the science and engineering fields.

Seeking to fix that Verizon on July 14 announced a partnership with Morgan State University and several other colleges that aims toincrease to increase the number of Black engineers.

The partnership involves Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Jackson State University and Kentucky State University–all HBCUs—and Verizon.  Called “Minority Male Makers” the program focuses on cultivating and nurturing middle school aged Black boys through an introduction and immersion in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) studies to equip them with the knowledge and skills they will need to secure employment in a fast changing, technology focused world.

This is the first of a multiyear initiative between Verizon and the universities that will have these young boys in Baltimore, and other cities, working with mentors and faculty from their respective universities to gain an exposure to the sciences that they may not have had the opportunity to receive. Throughout the summer, students will participate in all-day technology workshops, 4-5 days per week, for approximately 4 weeks at the participating schools.

Verizon hopes to inspire a new generation of Black males to be not only interested in science and engineering but also to get a higher education.

The AFRO spoke with several students after their first week in the program and their spirits were high. The participants we spoke with, Ayo Oluwafemi 13, Loden Harris 13 and Donovan Cherry 11, all seemed enthusiastic about the program. They discussed several projects they worked on in their first week including 3D printing objects and creating apps for mobile devices. After only one week they are demonstrating ideas and plans for things such as new game apps and using QR codes to help with their programming.

Tony Lewis , Verizon Vice President of State Government Affairs, explained why Morgan State University was selected for this initiative. “It’s all about raising the lakes for all folks,” Lewis said. He went on to explain that because Baltimore is one of the larger Verizon bases of operation and that the company has been in the city for over 100 years.  In addition, there are over one thousand active and retired employees in the metropolitan area. He noted Morgan State University is one of the top HBCUs.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, attended the event. “We want them [kids in the program] to tap into their possibilities, to see what they can do, what they can create and that’s why this is so important. We want our young people to know they can succeed and that they can succeed in STEM fields.”

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