Diversity & Inclusion
Coding / DEI / Education / Partnerships / Philadelphia

The Army-Navy game meant STEM lessons for a North Philly school

The US Naval Academy brought robots and iPads to Gesu School in December as part of a yearlong partnership, meant to encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

Gesu School students programming robots with iPads during the US Naval Academy's visit. (Courtesy photo)
It takes a village to prepare Philly students for future STEM careers — or maybe a platoon.

As part of a yearlong partnership, Annapolis, Maryland’s United States Naval Academy (USNA) visited Gesu School in North Philadelphia last month to offer STEM lessons and teach students about the college.

During the December visit, USNA Admissions Counselor Lieutenant Mike Dennison spoke to the students about his experience attending the school. The US Naval Academy Minority Association (NAMA), a diversity-focused nonprofit associated with the USNA, also provided iPads and robots that students could program and race.

Gesu School President and CEO Bryan Carter said the school is always looking to expose its students to new experiences, and the USNA partnership provided exposure to coding, robotics and opportunities for the future.

“Aligned with our mission, a priority of Gesu School’s is to accompany our students on the creation of a hope-filled future,” Carter said. “I appreciate USNA for joining Gesu School in helping to create access and possibilities for our students.”

The USNA has previously run STEM outreach programs for high school students, but more recently started The Spark Initiative with NAMA to include younger students — “to ‘spark’ their interest in pursuing an academic and career path within the STEM field,” said Dr. Alisha Malloy, NAMA’s STEM rep, and Yetanda Massey, USNA’s STEM program coordinator, through a spokesperson.

USNA brought these robots to Gesu School. (Courtesy photo)

The partnership came together after a group of seventh and eighth graders participated in USNA’s Girls STEM Day at the Naval Academy in October. According to Malloy and Massey, NAMA likes to give back to a school near where the annual Army-Navy football game is held in a given year — they played at the Linc this past December — and because of Gesu’s participation in Girls STEM Day, the school was flagged as a partner.

Malloy and Massey said the partnership with Gesu strengthens USNA and NAMA’s ties to the community.

“Partnership with Philly schools allows the community to see all facets of the Naval Academy and the opportunities available, while fulfilling this goal,” they said. “It also allows the community and students to interact with USNA alumni and STEM professionals, learning first hand the benefits of a career in STEM.”

USNA and NAMA aim to continue providing in-person and virtual programs at Gesu School, as well as offer scholarships to selected students to attend USNA Summer STEM and Summer Seminar programs. Carter said he hopes the school can find ways to be supportive of USNA, as well — and that continuing to expose young students to these activities will encourage them to seriously consider STEM fields for their futures.

“Gesu students had the opportunity to see and learn from individuals who look like them. The STEM instructors were outstanding and all Black women,” he said. “The program, as we continue the partnership, will help to inspire our children to become scientists and engineers, as well as to consider attending the Naval Academy.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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