NEW BEDFORD – “One of the biggest reactions I get when I go on stage and talk to young people is when I tell them, Yo, you know you could be a food scientist? People are just like, what do you think?,” said Angel Diaz, co-founder of the New Bedford-based youth organization STEAM the Streets, of his presentations to local students about the vast career opportunities in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields that STEAM Make up an acronym.
“Then I’m like yeah, and there’s like eight different kinds of food scientists. And they’re like what?! No way. Yeah, my guy! And if that’s interesting to you, give that thing!”
In forming their education-based youth organization in 2016, Diaz and co-founder, professional videographer Ben Gilbarg — both of New Bedford — found a way to give back to their city, exposing local students to lesser-known, high-paying careers. ways and try to raise their awareness of the limitless possibilities for their future. Still, her vision, and the needs her group seeks to address, are bigger than Whaling City. That’s why the two say STEAM the Streets is in the midst of a special moment with the recent launch of their mobile app, which almost infinitely expands the reach of their message — one they’ve spread mostly through local programming and partnerships with the city . schools with their brand of hip-hop-infused, youth-targeted outreach.
Gilbarg said the idea for the app, which debuted in October, began to take shape in 2017 before the COVID pandemic allowed the idea to become a reality.
“I’ve personally been a video producer and content creator all the way back to my time at New Bedford High, and so naturally that’s part of what we’ve done with STEAM the Streets,” Gilbarg said, noting that the video from group. Productions came to include career profiles highlighting various STEAM-based paths. “We realized that it was definitely working, the students were hooked on the screen, so we wanted a way to bring our content and approach to scale, because we realized that it’s great to reach a few schools, but this is a national problem that we’re trying to address where there aren’t enough people to fill all these jobs that are out there.”
The app: How it works
The STEAM the Streets app, currently available for free download on the Apple iOS (iPhone) and Android platforms, features slickly produced video segments – or “episodes” – of professionals from diverse backgrounds talking about their work and the ways in which one can take. get there; as well as a news feed of articles and other resources.
But it is much more than a guided video player and media scroller. Upon first signing up, new users are presented with a series of unrelated images, shown two-at-a-time, and each time asked to select the image that appeals to them. “And if you don’t quite know what each one is, that’s fine — it’s about which image resonates with you,” Diaz explains in a video walk-through of the app.
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Users’ selections then help the app determine three potential career paths to explore, each with two-part video lessons. The first part consists of an interview with an expert in the field, then users are asked about what they learned, earning them points in the app and unlocking the second video, in which Diaz talks, and raps, about Things like the effects of those. Roles have in details such as earning potential, as well as the steps to reach that field. Users can see how their progress measures up to others in the app via a leaderboard, and at the end of a “season,” top scorers are entered to win prizes, Diaz explained in the introductory video.
“After those two videos are done, you’ll see a road map with big milestones to complete when you enter that field,” Diaz explains, “and after you’ve completed all the questions, step 3 will be unlocked. These are curated Entry-level resources for you to try out an activity and act on your inspiration. And when you complete each STEAM challenge, you’ll unlock a new one.”
To STEAM the streets, you have to get on the streets
While Gilbarg and Diaz still consider the app to be in an early stage, they say the approach to its design and execution is one that’s tried and true based on their experience since STEAM paved the way more than six years ago, and from many years before. , with Gilbarg co-founded the New Bedford-based youth empowerment organization 3rd Eye Unlimited in 1998, and Diaz has worked in youth outreach programs since he was a teenager.
“We’re trying to hit that ‘just right’ mark where they’re, oh, I can buy it and this is not over my head, but it’s also not overwhelming where they’re at, this doesn’t serve me,” Diaz said, also known as “DJ Anghelli” when he performed hip-hop. “It’s the music, it’s the flare, it’s the graphics, it’s the language used. It’s really just meeting young people where they are. We know there’s a style of energy that is needed.”
According to a press release from STEAM the streets, an estimated four million jobs in STEAM fields will not be filled in 2023. While the ever-growing number is exponentially greater than it was when Diaz and Gilbarg were growing up, the outreach has been unprecedented. are proportional to the opportunities, both men said.
Diaz, who teaches at the tuition-free, all-girls Our Sisters’ School in New Bedford, says this has been especially true for historically underserved demographics, which is why the emphasis is on professionals who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous). , and people of color) backgrounds in the app.
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“I was failed by the public school system, is what I tell people, and I think a lot of it was just not having the right information that I needed to inspire me to make different decisions,” Diaz said, noting his port. Rica heritage. “And I’m just sick and tired of the black and brown community being left out of things. If kids don’t see somebody who looks like they can do something, they’re not necessarily going to realize that they could do it.”
“My grandfather … was the head of the math department at Stanford University, and even with that, I was totally disengaged from things like algebra in school,” Gilbarg said. “I never heard a teacher explain why we learned it or tell us things like how to use this math to make software, graphic design, and all these things that many of us probably found interesting. In our case, we knew how one can reach the youth in a way that creates this interest.
“We want them to see that you don’t have to wait until college to discover and pursue what you want to be. You can start these things as early as middle school and high school.”
NOAA helps with the marine science addition
With a large part of the STEAM mission of the Streets being the diversification of white male populated STEAM fields, the group found a friend in the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which indicated an equal goal for itself has, as the two entities partner on developing a marine science career module for the app.
The module’s first career highlight, already in the works, focuses on the position of research marine ecologist through the experience of Fall River native Dr. Tammy Silva, who fills that role at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Scituate.
“We are currently in the pre-production phase of the episodes,” Gilbarg said. “We have one of our first video sessions in January where we will talk with Tammy. You will hear her story of how she got into this and what she does, the salary range… She graduated from UMass Dartmouth and is from Fall River so that it is a good, relatable link for people in our area.
Gilbarg said it’s hopefully the first of many marine science careers that will be highlighted. “I think the ocean is our backyard — we have SMST (UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology), Woods Hole, Stellwagen Bank,” he said. “As we know, offshore wind is a huge thing, so we hope to expand on that next.”
Diaz and Gilbarg said over the next year, the focus will be on raising awareness about the app as STEAM the Streets continues to set up meetings and partnerships with schools and other organizations locally and beyond, like the last month when Gilbarg attended Aspire High School. in Oakland, California, to introduce the app to students there.
“We have something planned to come up with Voc-Tech in January,” Diaz said.
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In addition to the yet-to-be-unveiled marine module, Gilbarg said future development plans for the app include mentoring and the app as an unlockable feature that can be earned. “The support part is really big because no matter how accessible something seems, you need community,” he said, noting that much is owed to the support of sponsors like the Marion Institute, BayCoast Bank, Carney Family Foundation, and McMillian-Stewart. Foundation for STEAM’s street performances. “That’s really the bigger vision of this — to create a community.”
“When I look at us and where we are with this work, it’s like, yeah, who would have thought we’d be here doing what we’re doing at this level? I mean, we built an app! Some New Bedford kids who came out of a love for hip-hop, knew nothing about building apps, and still did it,” said Diaz. “And now look — we’re working with a federal agency and talking about how we can put this thing in as many people’s hands as possible across the country.
“If we can do all that, just imagine what you can do.”