Lassonde receives funding to launch STEM program for Black youth

STEM student working with science beaker

New funding received by Lassonde’s kindergarten to industry (k2i) academy will help launch a new program that will create more STEM opportunities for Black youth.

The Lassonde School of Engineering’s k2i academy has received $463,800 from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism to create a unique micro-credentialed, Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) educational program for Black youth in grades 7 to 12.

Part of k2i’s Bringing STEM to Life in Schools stream, the SHSM program will work with some of the largest and most diverse school boards in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to implement a tailored initiative designed to reach more than 1,500 Black youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). K-12 educators, STEM industries, as well as community and post-secondary partners, will collaborate with k2i academy to develop a program that address inequities, promotes cultural relevance, celebrates Black excellence, challenges anti-Black racism and increases opportunities in STEM pathways.

According to Statistics Canada, Black Canadians received less than three per cent of the degrees and diplomas in post-secondary programs in 2016 that would qualify them for STEM careers. Equitable opportunities for Black youth to engage in STEM learning, explore the possibilities of STEM careers, and pursue postsecondary programs in STEM are critical to create positive change.

Jane Goodyer
Jane Goodyer

“At Lassonde, we understand the challenges of the future will be met by the people and knowledge we invest in,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering. “Empowering the creation of an equitable, diverse and inclusive community through programs like the SHSM in STEM for Black youth is essential in helping us attract students who have traditionally been underrepresented and underserved in STEM fields.”

Collaborations and partnerships with organizations like the Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) and the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN) will be critical to realizing the SHSM program’s objectives.

“The Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN) centres the importance of mentorship and role-models for Black youth which we know has a significant positive impact in people’s lives,” says Maydianne Andrade, president and co-founder, CBSN. “Collaborating with k2i academy in this program will enable a deeper and broader reach that would not be possible otherwise.”

Close collaboration with Ontario school boards will also see the program engage students in grades 7 to 10 in skills development that will connect to grades 11 through 12 SHSM programs. Students in grades 11 to 12 will receive formalized recognition for learning through a micro-credentialed SHSM program leading towards an Ontario ICT/Engineering SHSM certification that can be used in professional environments to seek future STEM opportunities. Programs will be flexible – virtual and/or face-to-face, synchronous or asynchronous – depending on the needs of school board partners.

Also provided are skill-building workshops that promote problem-solving, analysis, teamwork and leadership as well as technical skills, including coding, 3D modelling, engineering design and electronics. Students will receive constructive coaching and mentorship to support their educational journeys and career goals. The program’s focus on academic success, career planning and skills development – while promoting wellness and resilience – aims to strengthen pathways for Black youth in high-demand, STEM-related sectors in the labour market.

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

“We are always interested in working with organizations that put students and families first,” says Camille Logan, associate director, Peel District School Board. “What excites us about working with k2i academy is the opportunity to collaborate and co-design a program that connects our Black students to STEM pathways and STEM professionals from Lassonde, CBSN and BPTN.”

The new SHSM program continues to fulfill the Lassonde School of Engineering’s EDI Action Plan to drive positive change for the future. “k2i academy believes that our future leaders need us to collaborate differently, to come together to question our educational systems, engage with youth in a way that connects with their interests and passions, and design programs that places our students at the centre of the design,” says Lisa Cole, director of the k2i academy. “This program seeks to do this work with our collaborative partners.”