The Digital Divide: Black Engineers Unite Youth, Technology In ColoradoBy: (DUS Staff Report)
Since its launch in the 1970’s, the Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists (CABPES) has helped more than 2,500 young people of color with education, mentorship and training in the fields of engineering, science, math and technology.
This committed group of Black engineers and scientists were responding to what they saw as a severe underrepresentation of youth of color in academic and professional careers related to engineering and science.
Dewey Brigham, president of the association’s nine-member board of directors, promises some new programs, workshops, events and classes in this, the agency’s 29th program year.
“CABPES is very excited about the bright future of our students and the new vision of our agency,” said Brigham. “The business world and the ways in which it functions have completely shifted. If our youth are to compete in the corporate marketplace, they must have a firm understanding of new and developing technology.
“We support this understanding by exposing them to innovative, cutting-edge areas of science, engineering and technology and linking them with the companies and individuals who are creating that change. This—having technologically savvy students—creates a win-win for everyone: the companies, Colorado families, our students and our community, “added Brigham.
Brigham says the organization’s current programs include their award-winning JETS—Junior Engineers, Tomorrow’s Scientists program, which pairs executives from the fields of engineering and science with middle and high school-aged youth for a school-year-long series of classes, workshops and field trips to scientific and technological facilities. JETS offers classes in aerospace engineering, lego robotics and mechanical, architectural and electrical engineering and more.
CABPES’ Math Enrichment Program (MEP) provides year-round tutoring to strengthen students’ basic math skills and teaches them skills in problem solving. Both are keys to succeeding in careers in engineering and science, according to group officials. CABPES also offers a College Preparation Program (CPP) which helps students locate and secure college scholarships and helps prepare them for pre-collegiate testing. CPP unites students with academic and college admissions professionals who provide detailed information on the entry requirements for admission to four year universities.
“CABPES programs give Colorado youth the opportunity to not only dream big but to achieve those dreams through hard work, diligent study and determination,” and organization help, said Program Director Jackie Davis. “Our agency is unique because it focuses its efforts on underrepresented students who are interested in pursuing academic and professional careers in engineering and science. CABPES encourages and inspires youth and teaches them that anything is possible with education and the right connections. CABPES helps them get both,” said Davis.
In July 2009, according to Davis, CABPES will offer its annual Summer Math Boot Camp. It provides youth with intensive tutoring in middle school and high school math. This summer, CABPES will also offer its annual Widening Our World Program (WOW), teaching basic internet and computer skills to older adults and senior citizens. The classes are taught by former CABPES students.
“Teaching the WOW classes helps our students give back to the community what they were so freely given,” notes Kimberly Wallace, the organization’s new executive director. “CABPES offers the classes at no charge to seniors and older adults as a way to keep them up to speed on developing technology. They too are impacted by the digital divide,” said Wallace.
In the fall of 2009, CABPES will explore the possibility of expanding its scope to include a new arts and technology track exploring developing technologies in game design and telecommunications, a rapidly growing trend in engineering. It will also offer specialized workshops for CABPES alumni to help them with career planning, professional networking techniques and resume writing, said Wallace.
In response to America’s economic crisis, CABPES has formed the Professional Networking Group. Professionals from non-profit sectors and the global business market will meet monthly to share resources and information.
“In these economic times we have to foster relationships that are reciprocal, where each party can benefit by sharing its resources with the other,” said Sheila Taylor, vice president of the CABPES board.
CABPES is also gearing up for its annual banquet and awards ceremony on May 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Denver. The invited keynote speaker is Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll.
Wallace said she is excited about this year’s banquet and about her new vision for the agency.
“I’m excited because our 2009 banquet will showcase the brilliance of Colorado youth while demonstrating what community service can accomplish” Wallace exclaimed, adding that her organization is “about nurturing excellence in Colorado students of color, and that excellence will shine bright at our May gala.”
“I invite the community and our supporters to visit our facility and see our Hallway of CABPES Fame which,” which, she reports, “has over a thousand pictures of the young people who have come through our doors in the last 30 years.”
Companies may purchase tables for the event as a way to support programs that have transformed the lives of those youth, “and will continue to,” Wallace assured.
Wallace also maintains that the group’s “evolution is in complete alignment with what is happening in our nation.
“We’ll never stray from our founder’s original mission but will stay on top of the growth that is taking place in our industries by offering programs that help our youth maintain a competitive edge,” added the new executive director.
“It’s important,” she continued, “to note that CABPES programs are made possible through the generous donations of our sponsors,” among them companies like CH2M Hill, Coors, Xcel Energy, Mortenson, Qwest, EDS/Hewlett Packard, and the URS Washington Group. Wallace offered praises to the groups “wonderful tutors and student advisors, like Ron Fontenot, who has been a volunteer with CABPES for over 20 years.
“It’s his kind of selfless service that has helped CABPES students reach for and actually touch the stars,” said Wallace.
CABPES is also a proud member of the board of directors of the Colorado STEM Network (CSN), a statewide program uniting for profit and non-profit businesses in support of the work of science, math and technology agencies in Colorado that provide services to youth.
“The Colorado STEM Network is not only a great support to CABPES, it is an incredible resource for Colorado youth and families in this great time of developing technology. CABPES is honored to work with CSN as its mission is highly important to the well-being of Colorado students as a whole,” said Brigham.
Editor’s note: For more information visit www.cabpes.com or www.coloradostemedu cation.com.