Science and technology education has become increasingly important in classrooms and after-school programs to prepare students for the future. But not all students receive equal opportunities or exposure to these growing fields of study. SELF-ESTEAM was founded in 2019 to change that.
“Our mission is to instill underrepresented young women of color with fundamental skills which foster independence through workshops, programs, service and mentorship for personal and professional success,” said Monique Montgomery, public relations director for SELF-ESTEAM.
Montgomery noted the many problems that plague youth in the metro Toledo area, including human sex trafficking, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and poverty.
“SELF-ESTEAM was founded to address these issues by offering a program that gives underrepresented girls the opportunity to build their confidence and their community,” she said. “There are very few programs in Lucas County that are dedicated to the betterment of inner city youth. There are even fewer interdisciplinary programs that provide access to educational materials centered around Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. We created a program with the purpose of catapulting more underrepresented women into STEAM-related careers.”
The program is available to girls ages 12 to 18, and offers a balance of community service-related events along with workshops and educational opportunities.
“SELF-ESTEAM will assist in the transformation of teens who come from poverty and marginalization into healthy and nourished adults,” Montgomery stated. “Though our members may not come from financially secure environments, they have the potential to become experts to better their own lives. Although they lack decent education, social investments, access to technology, health services and creative outlets, with the right guidance, we believe our members can become change-agents in their own lives, community, country and world.”
Recently, the nonprofit organization partnered with Winterfield Venture Academy to offer the program to girls in grades 6-8.
“Winterfield Venture Academy has proven to be a successful partnership for SELF-ESTEAM,” said Montgomery. “The staff has been very hands-on and vocal in expressing their need for a program in their school. The students were able to engage in authentic but challenging educational experiences that will hopefully enhance the quality of their lives in the future. We take pride in knowing that the students of Winterfield show up voluntarily to our program and fully commit to each workshop outside of regular school hours.”
The University of Toledo’s National Society of Black Engineers has also assisted the organization by aiding the staff with the implementation of the STEAM curriculum. In addition, they have partnered with members through the Egg Drop Mentorship Program.
This year, members of the organization have participated in the Friendly Center’s PB and J drive, created meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House, and helped to fill backpacks with school supplies for Lucas County Children’s Services.
“In the fall, SELF-ESTEAM plans to host its Community Engagement and Enrollment Day (CEED Day), where we inform families of our program with hopes of recruiting new members. The purpose of CEED Day is to engage with the community, partners, and the students and families. During the event, we will have S.T.E.M. demonstrations, entertainment, and giveaways,” Montgomery said.
“We have a great program and vision that we wish to carry out, but funding is needed. We are currently seeking opportunities, sponsorships and donations to help fund our program.”