Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Counter Space: Analysis of Educational Structures of an After-School Program That Fosters Black Academic Success Narratives

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Counter Space: Analysis of Educational Structures of an After-School Program That Fosters Black Academic Success Narratives

Article excerpt

DeAndre Martin, a lanky, 5'10" African American 15 year-old boy, sat in the back of 10th grade advanced biology, whispering to his friends while the teacher introduced the meiosis-mitosis activity sheet. DeAndre liked biology and understood the concepts but was not interested in the group activity. The teacher pulled DeAndre aside and asked, "Aren't you a G-STEM student?" "Yes," DeAndre replied. "Then I expect you to act like it . . . especially in THIS class," the teacher said.

DeAndre earned a B in biology, a D in algebra, a C in English, a C in U.S. history, an S in P.E. a B in desktop publishing and a varsity letter in basketball that semester. He also was dismissed from G-STEM for not earning the required 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and missing more than 25% of the program's activities.

His mother and father met with G-STEM staff from the university and the school for the reinstatement hearing that DeAndre had formally requested by letter. The Martins are a working-class, African American family. They are actively engaged, personable, and caring parents. "The coach told me that if DeAndre continues to improve, he will most likely start as point guard next season," Mrs. Martin said proudly, her husband smiling in affirmation.

The G-STEM teachers know DeAndre well; they have him in class and weekly in G-STEM. The teachers again confront DeAndre, this time with his parents and other G-STEM staff present: "DeAndre you are working below your ability." DeAndre shyly agrees; showing that warm, toothy smile. He knows he can do better, but the idea of applying significant and regular effort to study algebra and biology seems foolish to a 15 year-old boy who gets more positive attention from school staff about his jump shot than any academic subject.

DeAndre says he plans to attend college on a basketball scholarship. I agree with him that going to college on a basketball scholarship would be fabulous! "What schools have committed to you? What schools have offered you a scholarship? Duke? North Carolina?" I asked.


"The U?"

"Not yet," he says smiling.

"Well, G-STEM sees your potential to make it big in a STEM field. We think you have the raw material to excel in science or technology. But we aren't speculating about your talent; we see your raw abilities now and think it is worth making the investment in you NOW! We are putting a fouryear, Research I scholarship on the table now. Will you commit yourself? Will you commit to it? Because it is clear that you have the ability."

DeAndre leans back in his chair and takes a deep breath.

DeAndre took us up on the offer. With the support and encouragement of his parents and the GSTEM teachers, he stepped up his academic game and was reinstated into the program. He improved his grades and engaged in G-STEM career exploration and college preparation activities throughout high school. The summer after his junior year he completed a six-week, computer science internship at a biotechnology company. He finished high school with a cumulative GPA of 3.4, an ACT score of 25, and three varsity letters in basketball and track.

DeAndre received academic scholarship offers from four colleges; he chose the university's G-STEM 4year, tuition scholarship to study in a STEM field. He played intramural basketball in college and earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. He now works for a technology company.


DeAndre is an example of students who participate in the Growing students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (G-STEM), a pre-college STEM educational development program designed to prepare students of color to earn degrees in technical disciplines. The need for programs like G-STEM to meet the national demand for a diverse technical workforce is well-documented (National Science Foundation, 2015; Oakes, 1990). In many ways, DeAndre' s G-STEM experience is the type of pre-college preparation recommended in the literature, and there is a growing body on literature of the types of intervention strategies effective in increasing STEM diversity (Chang et al. …

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