Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, speaks at the Northern Virginia Urban League’s annual Community Service and Scholarship Awards dinner Friday, April 19.
Photo by Alex McVeigh.
The Northern Virginia Urban League awarded $50,000 in scholarships to local high school students at its annual Community Service and Scholarship Awards Dinner Friday, April 19. The organization, whose mission it is to enable disadvantaged youth to achieve economic and academic success, awarded one scholarship to South Lakes High School senior Osasenaga Kelly Aghayere.
“We need to excite our kids about science, technology, engineering and math in elementary school, so when they are a junior in high school they can really learn those areas of focus and participate in related extracurricular activities, like Lego Robotics,” said Cynthia Dinkins, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League. “Then when it’s time to go to college they can seriously consider majoring in one of those areas.”
Dinkins said the importance of STEM learning must be imparted by all parties in the educational system.
“We need assistance from the homes, the schools, the churches and any other community groups. Learning starts at home, so it’s upon us as parents that we encourage children to learn things that are different than they might normally learn, to go outside the box a little bit,” she said. “And it’s incumbent upon the schools to ensure we have teachers in the classrooms that make math, science, engineering and technology exciting. There are so many things youth can do in those programs.”
AGHAYERE is a candidate in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. He was born in Nigeria and immigrated with his family when he was in fifth grade. He is involved in DECA, National Honor Society at South Lakes, and also volunteers at the Southgate Community Center, Reston Youth Club, Reston Youth Basketball, the Reston YMCA and Reston Interfaith.
“I’m planning on going to Morehouse College and planning to major in business, most likely in accounting,” he said. “Accounting requires mathematics and that’s why STEM is important to me.”
The Northern Virginia Urban League also presented awards to Boeing and Randal Pinkett, a Rhodes scholar and winner of season four of “The Apprentice.”
Pinkett said that the coming years would prove vital to the future of minorities in the U.S., because they have an opportunity to increase their impact on the STEM fields.
He cited the fact that while the U.S. population consists of 13 percent African-American, 14 percent Hispanic and 1 percent Native American, they only make up 6 percent, 8 percent and .6 percent, respectively, of the U.S. college engineering population.
“Minorities, while we are witnesses to this digital world we live in, we are not as active participants in this technological revolution as we need to be,” he said. “What we need is not more of us engaged in technology as consumers, we need more of us as active producers of technology, creating, designing, programming, imagining, because consumers change very little about the world. It’s producers who innovate, change the landscape and the marketplace. That opportunity is right at our fingertips, because young people are already inclined to be comfortable with technology.”
MARC MORIAL, the president and CEO of the National Urban League, was also in attendance, and he urged the audience to make STEM education a top priority.
“This commitment to STEM education, to enabling, ensuring and equipping our children is not only something that is good to do, it is an imperative for us,” he said. “Great nations do not just buy things, great nations make and invent things.”