Disengaged Students Get A New Path to Empowerment

Some students have it worse off than others. They can come from poverty stricken areas, emigrated from a different country, or simply aren’t socialized well. It can be difficult for these students to do well in classes. STEAM Box is a new company that wants to help these kids: the disengaged and disenfranchised.

STEAM Box is a youth-led nonprofit designed to allow students to explore their passions through science, technology, engineering, art and math projects. The key, however, is student ownership. Participants understand that they are the boss of the program and the projects we create; they decide the direction.

How STEAM Box Works

The strength of the program comes from the student participation in a variety of activities and projects. The leaders have youth mentor other youth, and the focus of attention rewards youth development. This is quite possibly why the very same students who struggle regularly to succeed in classes during the school day find more success every afternoon with STEAM Box.

The students get to choose which areas of interest they pursue, and no matter what it is, they work on it together and learn. One example was a Japanese animation program that a student started because of STEAM Box. While our other groups at STEAM Box were designing robots and aerospace engineering projects, this group was showing their animations at conventions. Last year the Animation Design program culminated in a lesson at their favorite animation studio, Studio Ghibli in Tokyo, Japan.

Growing Numbers

From the creator of STEAM box, it was a hard journey to come to where they are now. The school they were at almost got shut down because of low funds.

“As the community was appealing to the school board for the high school to stay open, STEAM Box had achieved a major victory. By winning the regional Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Challenge, we were able to visit the school board with a map provided by Samsung. It listed four schools in the United States that were Innovation centers. Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, which had been previously identified as the lowest-performing and most-toxic school in Providence, R.I., was now on a national map of innovators by Samsung. We would go on to receive similar honors from Google, PBS and the Rhode Island Tech collaborative.

STEAM Box played a vital part in keeping the school open, but so did the students and the community. We succeeded together, and the school would move forward into a new era. No longer working against a dead-end reputation, we now felt a new found freedom to grow. To play! To do what we do best, create!

Our coding program has spun off a media program where students are podcasting, directing their own films and creating their own special effects. This group had excellent mentors like our friends at Telemundo, Poder radio, ABC and NBC. This group is currently ranked #7 in the world for its podcast in education.

A local trip to the eye doctor was a great reminder of how far we've come. The nurse recognized my Alvarez High School hoodie and commented about her time as a student in the school. She expressed her fear when she was a part of this community. There were fights and regular chaos. STEAM Box wanted to find out what how the current students perceive this school. It was clear that this once scary school was now a school that made people feel safe. The most common word used during the interviews was “family”.”

His journey with STEAM Box has shown that even the most underprivileged areas can become high achieving success stories with a little bit of love.

(Story via EdSurge)

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