By Micha Green, Washington, D.C. AFRO Editor[email protected]

Kára McCullough, a scientist turned Miss USA 2017, is encouraging students to pursue science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) careers through her newest program, “Take Flight with SE4K.”

Science Exploration For Kids (SE4K) is a personally funded program of Miss USA’s that brings the basics of STEAM to students across the country. Take Flight with SE4K, which launched at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Historic Terminal A, is another way she intends to make STEAM accessible, appealing and fun for children.

Miss USA 2017, Kára McCullough, Dr. Jean Pritchett (center) and Ashley Ferguson (far right) with students showing the end product of heir experiment. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

“What we’re trying to do is encourage so many students to fall in love with the science, engineering and the technology, because we have to gear up this next generation so that they can be ready for a career,” McCullough told the AFRO in an interview at the AFRO’s Washington, D.C. office.

The launch included two sessions, the first for elementary aged children and then another for middle and high school students.

Both sessions used team building challenges to engage students to work together and utilize the same problem solving tools employed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

McCullough added entertainment to Take Flight with SE4K because she is not oblivious to the fact that STEAM work is not always appealing to everyone, even if the encouragement is coming from a pageant queen and scientist. In fact McCullough herself was not always on the trajectory toward a career in science.

“The thing is I was intimidated by math when I was younger.  It didn’t really always come as easy.  But then, when I was able to finally grasp it, I had an amazing eighth grade math teacher who really broke things down,” McCullough said.  “So through my program, Science Exploration 4 Kids, we show students math and science aren’t intimidating.”

Further than her platform, as a woman of color, McCullough feels it is important to show the next generation anything is possible.

“Representation matters. I live by that. Getting more children engaged in the science and tech side… especially children of color, gives us that opportunity to prove to them that they can accomplish many things in life,” she told the AFRO.

McCullough attributes her opportunities for success to STEAM, and she wants the same for other children.

“I knew I loved science and I loved math and I want to share that with so many students because I was able to go to college for free, get an amazing job after school, have the opportunity to get a PhD in chemistry. So there’s so many different options that are available, and I just think that it really expands your imagination, boosts up your critical thinking, and just gives you that much edge over a lot of your peers,” McCullough told the AFRO.

While her reign is up in May, McCullough will continue SE4K programming.

“We have summer camps lined up… at the University of Maryland, College Park and as well as Tilden Middle School in Rockville, Md… We’re actually working with Bechtel Construction Company to take it global. So we’re going to Waynesboro, Georgia, Orangeburg, South Carolina… Virginia Beach, Virginia. And if you’re interested hit us up, we’ll find a way to get the program out there.”

For more information on Science Exploration 4 Kids programming, visit the website, se4k.org.