To celebrate the second anniversary of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory collaborated with SUNY Old Westbury to bring more than 160 students from New York City and Long Island to the Laboratory on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 for a day of mentorship and engagement in science.
The participating students—most from economically challenged, diverse community high schools—experienced the exciting possibilities offered by careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the company of mentors from Brookhaven Lab and SUNY Old Westbury and national leaders of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President, Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force gave a keynote address on the importance of government, businesses, nonprofits, local education agencies, and individuals stepping up and doing their part to ensure all of our nation's youth have the tools they need to succeed.
“Together we can highlight the importance of inclusive and active STEM engagement here in the United States, and why every one of us needs to do more to ensure that every American—including those underrepresented in STEM, like women and people of color—are exposed to this ecosystem through active and hands-on experience,” said Johnson.
LaDoris Harris, Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and an engineer by training, also urged the students to take advantage of the mentorship and support networks available to them.
“We're here because our future relies on you,” said Harris. “Whether you want to become STEM leaders or President of the United States, make sure that you do each and every day all you can do, be excellent at what you do, and know that we recognize how important it is for us to do what we can for each of you.”
The morning session kicked off with a panel discussion, and the attendees were enthralled by the personal and educational journeys of the speakers, which included scientists and staff from the Lab, educators from Old Westbury, and leaders from public and private sector organizations, including Con Edison.
“By listening to the stories and college experiences that these influential men and women of color shared today, it is my hope that these young people gain a sense of perspective that education and hard work can help change the trajectory of their life, and put them on a path to a productive and successful future,” said SUNY Old Westbury President Calvin O. Butts, III, who served as panel moderator.
The day’s program included a tour of the Lab’s premiere DOE Office of Science User Facilities— the National Synchrotron Light Source II, Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider control room — along with hands-on activities that highlighted the Lab’s current research initiatives and world-class facilities, organized by the Lab’s Office of Educational Programs. A follow-up event will be held in April at SUNY Old Westbury to sustain engagement with the students, and provide an opportunity to meet with recent graduates and faculty from various disciplines.
“As a national laboratory, our greatest asset is our employees and the strengths, skills, and creativity they bring to work each day,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs. “Keeping our nation competitive on the global technology stage will require a new generation of scientists and engineers that is truly representative of our nation as a whole—and programs like My Brother’s Keeper can help make that goal a reality.”
My Brother’s Keeper is a public-private initiative launched by President Obama in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Supported by the White House, several departments of government, and many foundations and corporations, this long-term program joins federal, state, and local government agencies with businesses, educational institutions, and foundations, who together are taking important steps to connect young people to mentors, support networks, and the skills they need to succeed. Nine DOE national labs are hosting My Brother’s Keeper events this year in partnership with local educational institutions.