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Cool Schools: Program allows students of color to get a jump start in STEM careers

Junior Engineers, Tomorrow’s Scientists (J.E.T.S) after-school program gives students real-world STEM experiences with mentors.

DENVER — The Colorado Association of Black Engineers and Scientists (CABPES) has an after-school program called J.E.T.S or Junior Engineers, Tomorrow’s Scientists.

It helps underrepresented minority students prepare for careers in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM. CABPES has provided middle school and high school students hands-on STEM experiences since 1980.

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“We were doing STEM before it was STEM,” said CABPES President and Executive Director Dewey Brigham Jr., Ph. D. “The reason CABPES was started was because we found ourselves sort of in silos back in the 80s not having a lot of professionals of color in the STEM fields."

Credit: Byron Reed
CABPES President and Executive Director said, "the U.S. needs to do a better job in preparing underrepresented minority students in order to maintain themselves as a global leader in STEM."

The J.E.T.S program serves students in grades fifth through twelfth and teaches them about the different disciplines of engineering through courses like aerospace engineering, architecture, civil engineering, computer science, drones and robotics as well as project management. The courses are taught by volunteers who are professionals in their fields.

Credit: Byron Reed

“CABPES is designed to build a pipeline of STEM professionals,” said Brigham. “So, we do that by reaching out to the public schools and try to get more minority students into our programs so that they will be able to learn from us who are already in the field.”

“We know what it’s like to go through the process of trying to get a job in that field,” said volunteer teacher Adrien Bossogo-Egoume. “The African-American engineer is just not something that you’ll have a lot of as you’re going through middle school, high school and then college.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Aerospace engineer Adrien Bossogo-Egoume (l) teaches his J.E.T.S students about jet propulsion.

Bossogo-Egoume is a practicing aerospace engineer working for a company called United Launch Alliance. He said having that real-world perspective from an educator is a valuable resource for his students.

“What is it like working day to day, what are the things that I’m learning in school right now that I actually will have to remember so that I can apply in my job,” said Bossogo-Egoume.

“The teacher, he’s really passionate you can tell he really likes teaching about this knowledge,” said eighth grade J.E.T.S student Yusif Gaboush. “[The program] could open up a lot of pathways and give more people a chance to do something they actually might find really fun or interesting.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Brigham said it was very important for the program to have volunteers that look like the students and teaching the students because there are not a lot of educators of color in public schools.

“What better way to get these kids interested in STEM than bringing them into an after-school program like CABPES,” said Brigham. “So that they can work with and learn from professionals of color that look like them, that have gone through some of the same things they’ve gone through and live in the communities that they live in.”

CABPES also offers programs in math enrichment, SAT/ACT College prep, and a summer math boot camp. Brigham said he would like to see the students walk away with confidence, strong self-esteem and become productive citizens in the community.

Credit: Byron Reed

“Once they come to our program and learn from us, I would like to see them walk away with self-belief that they can be an engineer, doctor, mathematician, scientist,” said Brigham.

Click here for more information about the J.E.T.S program

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