k2i academy engages Black youth in STEM

k2iacademy event participants banner

Through two of its programs, the k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering has looked to provide Black students in Grades 5 through 12 with exciting, hands-on learning experiences that provide unique opportunities to explore and engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

The k2i academy’s Path2STEM and Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) in STEM programs look to provide Black youth with access to opportunities that help the academy achieve its aim of breaking systemic barriers and transforming the future of STEM. It aspires to do so by ensuring that Black youth see themselves as integral parts of these fields.

“Our educational systems have deeply rooted inequities that must be addressed,” says Lisa Cole, director of programming at k2i academy. “As we work alongside collaborative partners, including school boards, the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN), faculty, community members and government, we are better able to design programs that create impact by enhancing access to opportunities, resulting in more equitable outcomes for students and families.”

Recently, as part of its Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM programs, the k2i academy sought to advance its goals through a two-day event that invited over 400 students from the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board to participate in activities that provided practical STEM skills, as well as highlighted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Each day was dedicated to different grade levels, with students in Grades 5 through 10 participating in the Path2STEM program, and those in Grades 11 and 12 taking part in the SHSM in STEM program.

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events.

Among the activities were hands-on sessions where the k2i academy’s mentor team led students through opportunities to explore engineering design, coding, robotics and 3D design. High-school students also got to take part in a hackathon experience, designed to solve real-world problems in transportation and mobility. The immersive challenge encouraged teamwork and innovation, as students worked to develop solutions for smart roads, the safety of autonomous vehicles and accessibility issues.

The two-day event was also indicative of the k2i academy’s commitment to fostering relationships within the community, such as its relationship with the Peel District School Board.

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events.

“We have developed a Black Student Success Strategy with objectives to integrate the experiences of Black Canadians into the curriculum and inspire and support Black student success,” says Camille Logan, associate director, Peel District School Board. “The k2i Path2STEM and SHSM programs align with this work. Characterized by a deliberate focus on uplifting Black students in STEM and enhancing teacher capabilities, this program has flourished into an excellent partnership with the k2i academy. Together, we are not just addressing gaps, we are laying the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive future in STEM education.”

The Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM programs, and event, are the result of funding from the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, which has provided the k2i academy $523,800 over two years to support the Bringing STEM to Life: In Schools SHSM in STEM for Black Youth program. This project, in collaboration with the CBSN, focuses on career pathways, skill development and mentorship, illustrating a collective commitment to building a more inclusive STEM community.

“k2i’s work supports the Black Youth Action Plan’s mission of helping participants develop skills to launch their careers in high-demand sectors and working towards eliminating race-based disparities by dismantling barriers and increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families across Ontario,” says Michael Ford, minister of citizenship and multiculturalism.

For more information, visit the k2i academy website.