Tuesday, November 21, 2017



Executive Vice President, YMCA of South Florida | WESTON YMCA FAMILY CENTER

For those who are unaware, explain the Y’s STEM program. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) has been recognized as being deficient throughout the school systems in the country. This phenom­enon is further heightened by the fact that economically challenged families and women are not encouraged to pursue STEM Training. Yet there con­tinues to be a void in exposing our young children to the STEM disciplines. Currently 7,500 open IT jobs in Broward County cannot be filled because of unavailable qualified personnel to fill them. These jobs typically start at $50K-plus. By 2020 there will be over two million jobs nationwide that will be unfilled. The alternatives are to leave them unfilled, ship them overseas or bring in foreign nationals to fill the void. A better solution is to begin tapping into the available resources of the economically challenged and our female population to create a pool of available resources thereby creating a win/ win for our kids and the country. We have these untapped resources, and job opportunities waiting to be filled: a perfect marriage. The Y’s objective is to provide early exposure and interest (grades 2 through 6) in these disciplines and provide a platform with which to continue the student’s STEM education through high school and beyond.

It sounds like it’s a program that is truly in sync with the times. Do kids who attend learn through recreation, or is it more of an academic-oriented program?

Both. Our kids learn how to write basic code through a program developed by Carnegie Mellon. It allows the student to write basic programs using a process called Scratch Coding. The second part is using a program developed by LEGO and MIT in which the student builds programs and operates robots.

What advantages do children have who attend something like STEM Camp end up having as opposed to those who don’t?

Hopefully, we will have stimulated interest that will carry through to IT careers. This type of education is not the best way, it is the only way to build the homegrown pools of people that will meet the needs of the country while creating meaningful jobs that would not typically be available to our disadvantaged and female population.

Who are the counselors and/or instructors for this program and are they specially trained?

The overall management of the program is provided by one of our em­ployees who was previously a primary education principal, Angie Miller. The day-to-day teaching is provided by Angela Ashley, who is a nuclear physicist by trade but has taught science and math for the past 10-plus years at Cypress Bay High School. She is also the sponsor of the national champion robotics competition. She utilizes two assistants to deliver the requisite training. Marty Goldenberg, Board Member and Chairperson of our Education Committee, provides consulting and oversight services to this and other programs as we plan to expand our education services to include tutoring for math and science through High School; a drone program, internet proficiency for our seniors and more. We also have two junior counselors we have hired that were or are students in the Cypress Bay High School STEM program.

What has been the response to this program thus far, from both the campers and the parents?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive from both. Thus far we have filled 50 of the available 80 slots. We will probably have to expand our capacity to up to 120 to accommodate demand. The program would not have been possible for the Y to offer without the generous support of our donors: Milner Technology, Dr. Moshin Jaffer and Samsung. Because of their financial contributions, we were able to purchase 30 laptops and 10 LEGO robots.

For more information, visit ymcasouthflorida.org.