So NESC set about creating STEM opportunities for youth in partnership with local BIPOC-led community-based organizations (CBOs).
Youth and community outreach organizations, such as Black Male Achievement, Kairos PDX, Elevate Oregon, and Self Enhancement, Inc., provide in-kind outreach to youth and families and connect people to services and STEAM opportunities at the makerspace. Infrastructure partners including Multnomah County Summerworks Internship Program, Metro East, and PCC Cascade support the NESC with donated and loaned equipment loans, resources, and connections to STEAM creatives. STEAM education personnel and resources come from culturally-specific organizations like Building Blocks to Success, Girls Inc., and TIE Oregon.
More than two dozen coalition members meet monthly to network, celebrate successes, and collaborate on events and projects. Crucially, they guide non-profit and industry partners to prioritize equity by hiring BIPOC staff, change underrepresentation in STEAM, and create culturally responsive programs.
“Listening to, supporting, and directly addressing the voices, needs, and challenges of BIPOC communities drives the NESC,” said Murphy. Fifty percent of the BIPOC-led coalition’s 122 members and representatives are multicultural, and four out of five board members are BIPOC. “Without culturally specific STEAM education, BIPOC youth are discouraged from imagining, dreaming, and creating a world of life-changing opportunities.”
With support from the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission and Prosper Portland and in partnership with its members, NESC is building a space for BIPOC youth to imagine, dream, and create. A community makerspace will officially open at Abundant Life Church in N. Portland in January 2022. Designed to provide more opportunities for young people and families to build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in STEAM, the NESC Makerspace will be open to the public as well as families who participate in programming with coalition members like CETI, Pixel Arts, and Camp ELSO. To raise awareness about the makerspace, NESC is utilizing the help of paid interns to create videos showcasing their story in STEAM at the makerspace. These videos will serve the dual purpose of making normally inaccessible programs easy for BIPOC youth to join and increasing the representation of youth of color in STEAM.
Over the next several years, the NESC will continue to prioritize community outreach and the development of more culturally relevant programming.
“BIPOC youth want and deserve access to life-changing STEAM opportunities,” Murphy said. “STEAM is more than a career path or interest. It enables new forms of placemaking to organize, new kinds of creativity to meet community needs and solve issues, and new pathways of civic engagement, advocacy, and leadership.”