Hon. Tom Roach, left, Emanuel Azcona, Kecia Palmer-Cousins, Ed Bergstraesser, Dr. Irving McPhail (PHOTOS BY Kenneth Kencaid)
White Plains, N.Y. – AT&T gifted the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) $150,000 on May 1, 2014. This contribution is part of a 40-year relationship between the parties, involving mutual interest in growing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities for underserved and diverse populations.
One-third of the gift will go to supporting ten Academies of Engineering (AOE), a career-themed high school level academic network. NACME partner Project Lead The Way (PLTW) will help provide hands-on curricula to teachers from Waco, TX and Baton Rouge, LA, all the way up to the High Schools for Construction Trades Engineering and Architecture in Ozone Park, Queens.
Speakers and attendees at the event included Dr. Irving McPhail, NACME President and CEO; Ed Bergstraesser, External Affairs, AT&T; Hon. Tom Roach, Mayor of White Plains; and Emanuel Azcona. Azcona is currently attending the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering as a NACME Scholar, and is a graduate of the Construction Trades Engineering and Architecture H.S. in Ozone Park.
NACME primarily focuses on collegiate scholarships, working with Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians by awarding more than $4 million each year to underrepresented minorities. The funds provided by AT&T will give financial assistance to minority students to pursue undergraduate engineering coursework. Last year five AOE students were aided by the contribution, and are now freshman pursuing degrees in fields such as chemical engineering, computer science, petroleum engineering, and civil engineering.
The Vision of NACME is “An engineering workforce that looks like America.” It is driven by the realization that diversity in all forms comes with interesting ways to solve new problems (which is what engineers do).
NACME was started in 1974. Its origins are somewhat different than much of the nonprofit sector. It was originally started when a group of very large companies realized that there was an education resource crisis going on in our own country. Engineering and innovation requires diversity. And yet, we had begun offshoring for our skilled labor, leaving millions of underserved Americans without the opportunity to achieve an education and join the workforce.
While NACME is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization, it’s Board Companies include ExxonMobile, AT&T, BP, Chevron, DOW, GE, HP, Lockheed Martin, MERCK, Northrop Grumman, and other heavy hitters. AT&T is one of NACME’s founding Board Companies.
NACME has awarded 160 different colleges and universities Scholarship grants. It supported over 1,200 students in 2013. To-date the value of NACME Scholarships and program support awarded is over $124 million. NACME’s “pre-engineering” initiative is aimed at getting kids K-12 on the STEM path.
“At NACME pre-engineering is a major part of our strategy. We’re very concerned about building that pathway of young people, young underrepresented minority students, to get them motivated and excited about engineering as a realistic and attainable career option, and you [AT&T] have helped us immensely,” McPhail said.
NACME is not only reaching out through pre-engineering programs and scholarships, but also is interested in how U.S. policy affects opportunities for minorities pursuing careers in engineering and science. The idea is to have some sort of pipeline between corporate interests and the type of public policy that leads to change.
From one level you could look at it from the perspective that these major corporations know that there is a brain drain happening. They are investing in the talent that will drive their companies forward in the future. On the other hand, encouraging STEM at the K-12 level while providing financial assistance and work opportunities to young students is a boon to communities and will help stabilize America’s economy. Either way, it’s easy to see why many people view STEM-related public-private partnerships as “win-win” situations.
“A word you hear about all the time is ‘STEM,’ and sometimes it gets said too much. It becomes a buzzword and people lose focus about what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to take people that normally would not be exposed to what you can do as an engineer, what you can do with a mathematics degree, and show them what is on the other side, “ said Mayor Roach. “If we’re going to remain competitive in a very competitive international environment, we’re going to need skilled and trained workers to develop new programs and new projects — and this is the type of activity that needs to happen.”
Let’s take a look again at NACME Scholar Emanuel Azcona. Emanuel is doing well academically and has an upcoming internship with John Deer and an internship following his senior year with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is grateful for the support he’s been given, and even has his own entrepreneurial ideas around sound engineering and wireless communication.
Nonprofits such as NACME are helping build bridges between entrepreneurship, education, and opportunity; connecting the companies that are literally the engine that move our nation forward and the people who steer it.