August 2021 C-STEM Newsletter

Message from Dr. Reagan Flowers

What the Critical Race Theory Debate Could Mean for STEM Education

You have probably seen the term critical race theory (CRT) a lot lately. Unfortunately, the issue has become highly divisive and politicized. However, we need to focus on proposed changes’ impact on today’s students, future careers, and our communities.  Read the Full Article…

Illustration by M. Scott Byers

The Day

Opportunities & Deadlines

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Watch this section for great opportunities coming up or closing soon.

C-STEM Volunteer Events

Thank you for your continued support with helping us connect youth to the exciting world of communication, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (C-STEM)!  We are preparing to provide over 450 elementary and middle school students a STEMtastic learning experience, and would appreciate your help packaging up STEM kits!  To make it convenient for your schedule we have various shifts available.  Click here to sign up.

CSforAll Call for Commitments

CSforAll is calling on the STEM community to recommit to the mission of making computer science available to all students.  This year’s theme is “Change Happens with Partnerships in Places.”  Submit your commitment here.

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This Month’s Highlights

C-STEM Welcomes Brown as Executive Vice President

We are proud to welcome experienced STEM educator Crystal Donatto Brown to C-STEM as Executive Vice President. She has served as a school administrator, instructional specialist, assessment coordinator, and classroom teacher.  She is a graduate of Southern University and A&M College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, and received a Master of Education degree in Administration & Supervision from the University of Houston.

Crystal is a servant leader who is passionate about teaching and learning; and believes her purpose in life is to make a positive difference in the lives of others, as well as in the world in which we live.  She is excited about joining C-STEM because she believes every child, regardless of background, deserves the opportunity to engage in authentic problem-based and project-based learning experiences that encourage critical thinking, inquiry, problem solving and creativity.  She understands that teachers must be equipped with student-centered teaching strategies and an interdisciplinary STEM curriculum in order to effectively facilitate STEM learning for all students.  She also believes that students who have a strong STEM foundation are better prepared for future success in our ever changing global society.

As Executive Vice President, Crystal brings her expertise in educational leadership to ensure the continued financial and operational success of C-STEM.  She is focusing largely on cultivating partnerships that will scale and sustain C-STEM operations and programming, with an emphasis on transforming diverse communities.  Crystal has seen the impact of C-STEM locally, nationally and globally. She considers it an honor to have this opportunity to build upon C-STEM’s rich history and was featured this month in Houston Business Journal, People on the Move.

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C-STEM to Highlight the Impact of African Americans in STEM

Exciting things are in the works for C-STEM!  The 400 Years of African American History Commission (400 YAAHC) recently granted us a continuation of funding of $5000 for 2021. This brings the total C-STEM award amount to $10,000, allowing us to make an even bigger impact with our upcoming museum exhibit. 

We have partnered with local curators and museums to bring an informative exhibit detailing the 400 year history of STEM, including the work that C-STEM has done over the years.  We can’t wait for you to see this unique and fascinating showcase of science, technology, engineering and math! 

A HUGE thank you to 400 YAAHC for this generous grant.  It will help further our mission and engage the community in the importance of STEM.

Interesting Fact: The Commission’s logo was created by Ted Ellis, a local Houston area artist.


C-STEM Seeks Interns

We are currently looking for college students with a STEM background to participate in our internship program.  Currently, we are most in need of a STEM Project Enhancement II Intern, someone who takes initiative and is a self-disciplined problem solver.  This position will support the enhancement of STEM curriculum, training, and resources in one of our hands-on learning modules. Click here for details.


Backpack Giveaway Prepares Students for the New School Year

Earlier this month, C-STEM partnered with the Regional Black Contractors Association (RBCA) to give away more than 100 backpacks filled with school supplies and a children’s book.  

“Who better than C-STEM to partner with us on our annual Back to School Giveaway!” said RBCA President/CEO Kimberly Shaw. “When we started to organize the Back to School event, it was suggested that we ask C-STEM to partner because of their deep roots in the community and longevity with giving back. Dr. Flowers gladly accepted and the rest is history.”

RBCA is new to the Houston area. Its mission is to grow capacity for Black businesses, primarily in construction, while also creating workforce development opportunities for underemployed areas and impacting the communities it serves. “It’s a comprehensive model that addresses business growth, workforce and economic impact for the Black community,” Shaw said.

RBCA’s headquarters is just blocks from C-STEM’s, and Shaw says their missions have quickly aligned. “Dr. Flowers is the epitome of servant leadership, especially when we talk about children and education, primarily in underserved areas,” she said. 

“We have been blessed to cross paths with amazing people, doing amazing things,” Shaw said. “The two-day event was filled with rich connection and interaction with Third Ward residents. The highlight was going into the neighborhood and passing out backpacks to children who were not able to access the event. Meeting people where they are is what ‘helping others help themselves’ is all about.  We look forward to partnering on many more enriching events with C-STEM in the future.”

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Starting Early as a C-STEM Volunteer Pays Dividends

We are always thrilled to see the progress of our C-STEM family! Congratulations to Frazier Wilson III, who recently earned the prestigious Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship.  As part of the program, Frazier will complete two internships with Toyota. He is currently an honors sophomore bioengineering student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Frazier looks fondly on his experiences with C-STEM. “I used to attend C-STEM events like robotics competitions when I was in elementary school,” he said. “I really enjoyed watching the competition and even got a robot kit to make my own robot at home. Those experiences made me realize early on that I wanted to do engineering.”

In middle school, Frazier volunteered for C-STEM during the summer, helping plan an upcoming CSTEM event. “I learned some valuable organizational and leadership skills from that time with Dr. Flowers,” he said. “I went on to graduate from the Engineering Academy at Lawrence E. Elkins High School with Summa Cum Laude Honors.”

Best wishes to Frazier for continued success!


Summer Bridge Program Engages Houston Students

Last month we introduced you to the All-In Summer Bridge program, a hands-on STEM program held this summer for hundreds of Houston students. This month we spoke with Alexis Elafros of iEducate, the organization that provided tutors for the program.

“iEducate’s College Readiness Mentors were able to share their love for STEM this summer through iEducate’s partnership with C-STEM and HISD’s All-In Summer Initiative,” Elafros said. “Having the opportunity to uplift and inspire the next generation through creative, hands-on activities provided by C-STEM was an integral part of their experience as mentors this summer.”

Elafros said C-STEM’s involvement enabled the mentors to provide instructional support in an enriching, student-centered environment that made their experience that much more rewarding. “Our College Readiness Mentors were trained by C-STEM and had all the tools and resources they needed to effectively implement the lessons in the classroom,” she said.

The experience was equally rewarding for the students who participated, Elafros said. “The program was incredibly important for the elementary students as it provided them with an opportunity to foster a love for STEM through the enriching learning opportunities C-STEM provided.”



Back to School Million Father March

Although it’s called the Million Father March, the entire community was invited to this yearly first day of school event at Blackshear Elementary.  As parents dropped their kids off at school, the staff, community members and leaders, elected officials, and even the University of Houston women’s basketball team came out to welcome the students and wish them a great school year.

The event was indeed a celebration.  Community champion Ken Rodgers said “The kids really got a kick out of it, the smiles were there and when the little ones came on campus I heard a comment that some of their backpacks were bigger than the kids.  There were a bunch of aahs and oohs.”  

When we see children happy and excited it warms our hearts.  Rodgers said “It was just a good feeling to be there, to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and the surprise.”  He shared that at first the students hesitated, wondering what was going on and then “all of a sudden they got into it, they were smiling and elbow bumping.  It was just so cool.” 

C-STEM understands the importance of students knowing that there is a community of people supporting them, pushing them to work hard and towards excellence.  Thank you to the community for showing the students at Blackshear Elementary just how special they are and for being there as they take this first step into the 2021-2022 school year.

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Young C-STEM Volunteer Earns Spot at Space Camp

8th grader Dakari Bryant recently had the once-in-lifetime opportunity to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Space Camp provides STEM experiences for students to train like astronauts.  There is a national selection process with limited spaces so we were thrilled to hear that Dakari was selected.  Darkari has been volunteering with C-STEM since elementary school and we are so proud of him! He is also the son of C-STEM Advisory Board Member Zawadi Bryant.

During the camp, Dakari learned about science history, experienced life as an astronaut, completed hands-on scientific projects, and even met an astronaut.  He said he loved meeting Robert Lee “Hoot” Gibson, and learning about his space travel and his role in improving the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. “He talked to us and answered our questions, and told us about the handshake that ended the Cold War,” Dakari said.

Dakari shared that he also saw equipment that had been used on space missions. “It was truly cool seeing everything that was actually used,he said.

With his teammates, Dakari had the chance to make and test a heat shield. The exercise, which assimilated an astronaut’s re-entry, gave him a chance to use some of the engineering skills he learned at C-STEM. Other hands-on activities that let Dakari experience what it is like to be in space included building a double sided octagon in water to simulate weightlessness, a moonwalk chair and a multi-axis simulator that spins you around.

Though Dakari is not sure of his exact path yet, he plans on a big future in STEM. “I’d love to be a scientist, I’d love to be in space and I want to own my own business. It’d be great to own a business that involves technology in space,” he said.

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Blast From the Past Corner

We get the biggest joy going back down memory lane. C-STEM has touched so many lives. We have been serving communities near and far for more than two decades. It is our hope that this memory places a smile on your face and warms your heart. This month, we’re focusing on our interns, who have been an important part of C-STEM’S mission since the beginning. Enjoy these interviews with our 2014 group of talented students.

Executive Board

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Advisory Board

Michael Aldridge
Shomari Williams
Joi Beasley
Zawadi Bryant
Bobby Bryant
Lucy Bremond
Antonio ‘Tony’ Canales
LaQuita Cyprian
Laolu Davies Yemitan
Gayle Fallon
Ruthie Esene
Michael Harris
Renee Logans
David Medina
Antoinette Jackson
Scott Minnix
Dr. Sandra Saldana Ortega
Susan Taylor
Dr. Frazier Wilson
Syalisa Winata
Ross Peters
Dr. Robert Satcher
Charles Samuel
Miloni Shah
Cherrilyn B. Nedd
Dr. Martina Ogbonna
Dr. Letitia Franklin Ozoude

We are C-STEM!

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WISE Award Finalist

STEM Access Champion of Change by The White House