Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 3, February 17, 2012

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Photos by Jahvtz Blanton, Daesha Harris, Eddie Jackson, and Daria Robbins


Black Family Technology Awareness Day

Program offers a glimpse at STEM fields, the arts, and future careers

Nearly 800 area students, families, teachers, and community organizations were on campus Feb. 4 to participate in the 14th annual Black Family Technology Awareness Day. Part of a nationally celebrated week of the same name, the event is designed to spur interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and the arts. The theme for the program, “Tetherless Training for Tomorrow's Technologies: Heroes, Role Models, and Mentors,” was selected to pay homage to past, present, and future leaders of African-American descent in STEM-related fields.

In opening remarks, President Shirley Ann Jackson made a personal appeal to students to consider a future in the STEM fields. “We need you,” said President Jackson. “There simply are not enough students—especially minority students and girls—who are choosing careers in these fields. That has to change. In order to remain competitive, our country needs more young people, like you, who will grow up to become scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technology experts.”

Touching on the event's theme, President Jackson asked the audience, “When I say ‘heroes, role models, and mentors,’ whom do you think of? Who are your heroes, your role models, and your mentors? Perhaps they are your parents, your teachers, or others who actively encourage your interest in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the arts. Having these people in your lives is very important. Never underestimate the value of someone who guides you, who supports your passions, and motivates you to keep trying when you feel like quitting.”

Timothy Sams, vice president for student life, delivered the keynote address, focusing on the biographies of three of the African-American community’s highest achievers within scientific fields. They were: George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery and worked his way up to become a world-renowned agriculture-chemist; Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at John's Hopkins Children Center; and President Jackson. By reflecting on their personal stories, challenges, and accomplishments, Sams encouraged the students to persevere.

“You will have challenges and roadblocks,” said Sams. “What matters is what you do with them. There will never be anything put before you that your commitment, perseverance, and hard work won't enable you to overcome. So never make excuses; make ways. And remember, always over-perform.”
Special new highlights to this year's event included a lunch-time exercise break that featured the “Electric Slide” dance, a panel discussion, a Rensselaer school showcase, and a visit from Congressman Paul Tonko.

The event was coordinated by a 19-member committee, and supported by more than 100 volunteers from the campus and local community. In addition to Rensselaer, support for the event was provided by several area businesses and community organizations.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Numbe 3, February 17, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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