Youth mentee Kevin Akers extends LEAP Foundation DC mission through STEM for the Streets

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

For the past six years, we have had the privilege of sharing in the achievements and successes of mentee Kevin Akers. As a nonprofit that is on a mission to provide a platform for disadvantaged youth in the Washington, D.C., area, nothing could make us more proud than to see our young scholars using that platform to continue our mission. It was early on that we discovered the light that shines in Kevin. Now a senior at School Without Walls, he not only continues to accomplish his academic goals, but has found a way to share the power of education with others who follow behind him.

As a participant of LearnServe International’s Fellows and Incubator program, Kevin worked with his peers to develop an initiative that would introduce young students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in an exciting way. STEM for the Streets was born. And it works incredibly well to meet its mission.

Here’s why:

It’s hands-on

After we’ve been lectured about a topic, what really seals the deal is getting our hands dirty. We can learn everything there is about the structure of the cow eye and how it compares to the incredible way in which sight is created in humans, but it’s when we approach the learning experience from a hands-on perspective that a connection is finally made. This is why the clinical portion of medical training is so important – it involves interacting with patients, putting our knowledge into action and physically touching an educational lesson. The STEM for the Streets program has brought a cow eye dissection to local schools as a way for students interested in science – particularly the medical field – to learn in an exciting way.

It welcomes guest professionals

Part of any great educational program is credibility. When students are introduced to a professional who has been in the field of interest for some time and has experiences to share, the resulting retention of knowledge can be astounding. Inviting Dr. Clayton Lawrence, President and CEO of LEAP Foundation DC, to lead the program’s cow eye dissection not only adds credibility for the host school, but it gives students the opportunity to ask questions and interact with a mentor.

STEM is all around us

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. It’s all around us. It’s in everything we do; from the plants we grow and the phones we use, to the bridges we cross and the financial exchanges we make. It is important that we nurture these areas at a young age because it is in exploring them that we experience our lightbulb moment. It presents an opportunity to connect with something that causes natural excitement and that’s when we begin to pave the path to future goals. STEM for the Streets works to ignite that passion for young minds.

Opportunity where it otherwise wouldn’t exist

LEAP works with disadvantaged youth in the Washington, D.C., area, opening up doors and introducing mentees to experiences that may have otherwise gone unearthed. We encourage physical activity, a healthy lifestyle, education and goal setting. The STEM for the Streets program is an incredible extension of those efforts and reaches young people at a critical time in their lives. More specifically, it “exposes historically disenfranchised and underserved children in Washington, D.C., to STEM.” This is an incredible LEAP for such young leaders and it truly stands as a testament that our future is in good hands.