A local woman is on a mission to empower children through this Baltimore youth STEM program.
As a STEM leader, entrepreneur, and overall nonprofit visionary, Lawson was inspired to launch The Be. Org. Its mission is centered around changing the lives of Baltimore-area children of color through a rich curriculum that is focused on social-emotional learning, self-development, and STEM enrichment.
Empowering Baltimore’s Youth
“There was a young lady, she was a family friend and she was struggling with the transition to middle school. And, she wanted to be an actress. So I asked her, ‘What are you doing to perfect your craft?’ You know, ‘What are you doing to achieve your goals,’ and she ended up saying no one from Baltimore ever makes it,” Lawson recalled, telling AfroTech the inspiration behind starting The Be. Org. “So my heart was broken. Just for her to feel so defeated, just by mostly the circumstances of her environment. Baltimore is a hard city. And so, for her to give up on her dreams and not feel like she was worthy of success, literally broke my heart, and it sticks with me to this day.”
With her own background in STEM, Lawson noticed early on, the lack of people who looked like her. She aims to change that with the students in her program.
Leading The Charge
“I did not have a relatable face or mentor. I kind of just had to figure it out on my own,” said Lawson. “I kind of just felt my way through the industry, listening to what my college advisors told me or my department chairs, I didn’t have anyone to be a sounding board or to provide me with career access or to help me develop a plan or a network. We know how important it is to start building a network at a young age and to be familiar with people in the industry and I didn’t have that.”
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She continued: “So I have created that with The Be. Org. We’ve created opportunities for young people to build their workforce plan or work plan in life development early on. We’ve given them access to industry professionals, we’ve given them access to rehire teachers that look like them, that are able to relate to them, that are subject matter experts in STEM and in tech. I tell my story to the students all the time just so that they are able to know that they are worthy of success. They are capable of achieving hard things and greatness is, you know, available to them.”
Bringing Fun To Her Baltimore Youth STEM Program
Some of The Be. Org’s programming includes Food Playground, which uses STEM to teach students how to cook, created in partnership with Black Girls Cook. Another initiative is Be Virtual, a program where young people learn to code for virtual reality. Ultimately, they also receive workforce credentials and virtual reality software.
What’s more, a bulk of the programs are school-based in partnership with educational institutions in the area. However, the summer programs are open to all area youth regardless of the school they attend.
The Biggest Reward
For Lawson, the most rewarding part of this journey is now having students who will soon be heading off to college.
“We have one student who will be attending Morehouse in the fall. He’s majoring in computer science and has been with us for two and a half years, so we’re excited to be able to follow him and keep him in our family and the loop of programming and just support him in this next chapter,” Lawson shared. “We’ve connected him to some industry professionals in Atlanta, and we’ve connected him to some people that work at Microsoft. Just seeing students grow through the program and really set out to do what they have planned. That’s powerful.”
Looking ahead, The Be. Org will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2024. Currently, Lawson says the company has superseded all of her initial expectations. Moving forward, she says she looks forward to the organization having a more extraordinary impact by serving more students for many more years to come.