The Society for Science and the Public has awarded STEM Action Grants to a pair of organizations in Baltimore. The Black Girls Dive Foundation received $5,000, while SAFE Alternative Foundation for Education received $2,500 through the program.
In all, the D.C.-based Society for Science and the Public awarded $75,000 through its STEM Action Grant Program. Including the $2,500 that went to Rockville-based inteGIRLS, Inc., $10,000 went to nonprofits in Maryland.
“What we’re trying to do is build a larger ecosystem of these social entrepreneurs and their organizations and be able to learn from one another,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society of Science and the Public.
Despite the pandemic, Owings Mills-based Black Girls Dive is business as usual. Students are learning about marine conservation and STEM through remote learning, which is something that has been built into the Black Girls Dive curriculum for the past three years. The only difference now is the girls aren’t diving. But that may change in the near future, as a quarry is opening in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they could have an opportunity to scuba dive.
“It gives girls options,” said Dr. Nevada Winrow, founder and CEO of Black Girls Dive, about the importance of Black Girls Dive to students. When it comes to their careers, many students don’t know that underwater photographer is even a job possibility. “Options to engage in STEM activities. Opportunities to change the cultural narrative about African Americans and swimming and scuba diving. Just to give them additional options they never knew that they had with water.”
With a program called Lip Synch, SAFE Alternative for Education is creating sip and puff machines with 3D printers this year. These devices are designed to aid those who don’t have motor functions in their arms or their hands to use computers or a cell phone by using their mouth.
“It’s programs like [Lip Synch] that help our students understand that some of the ideas that they have can be very beneficial to the word,” said Van Brooks, founder of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education.
Both Black Girls Dive and SAFE have remained operational during the pandemic.
In fact, Black Girls Dive has received more funding this year than last, and is expanding its program to Trenton and Tanzania.
“From our funders the first thing they asked was ‘were we still operating?’” said Dr. Winrow.
Black Girls Dive was ahead of the curve on distanced learning. With knowledge from Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Reggie Smith, who also leads the United States Distanced Learning Association, the org was working through online education platforms like Moodle three years ago.
When it comes to the org’s boost in funding, “The fact that we were not shut down was definitely the factor,” said Winrow. “Other nonprofits have not been able to operate. So if they apply for a grant and are awarded, the problem is they can’t receive the funds because they’re not operating.”
SAFE was shut down for two weeks when the pandemic first hit. Then, the org started a 10-week virtual program called “Together We Can.” They’ve also recently started a modified in-person summer camp. SAFE works with six students a day for hands on STEM activities.
Ajmera recognized that these organizations are special and “have the ability to scale.”
For its part, SAFE is expanding its organization to encompass workforce development and job placement services for adults. By the end of the year, it intends to have a new building open for these services within a few blocks of where they currently reside at the SAFE Center in Southwest Baltimore’s Franklin Square community.-30-
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