BALTIMORE -- "It takes a village to raise a child" is an African proverb which basically means a child's growth is based upon their interactions and experiences with the people in their community.
Proving that 'Educate, Enrich, Inspire', the Anne Arundel County Public Library motto, are not just words, the Brooklyn Park Community Library hosted a 'Teens + STEM = Opportunities' event on March 9 to introduce young people to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) career and educational opportunities.
"Teens + STEM = Opportunities is a chance for middle and high school students to see what opportunities, both in regards to education and careers, are available to them in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," said Johanna Doty, programming and outreach coordinator for the Anne Arundel County Public Library. "These events are important for teens because they can give teens a chance to see what options are out there. For some teens this may be the first time they consider pursuing a career in STEM. It also gives them a chance to talk with people who already have those careers to ask them about what it took them to get there and what their jobs are really like."
One of the companies volunteering at the STEM event was FireEye, a cybersecurity company, headquartered in Milpitas, California, with an office in Reston, Virginia.
Sam Septembre, a federal systems integrator with FireEye, has taught cypher code at similar events for young people. His company supports philanthropy events such as these and his goal "is to introduce kids to computers and hopefully get them excited in it, and perhaps their teacher will see their excitement and help them along in their journey."
"So the number one thing is to be able to reach children who have suffered from some sort of adversity because I suspect they are really great problem-solvers and if we can introduce them into our computer challenges we might be able to find some really great problem-solvers," said Septembre.
Soldiers and Army Civilians from the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber) were also at the event to talk about career opportunities and answer questions about the cyberspace domain. The 780th is headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, and is the only offensive cyberspace operations brigade in the U.S. Army.
"Events like this are important because it's hard to be what you can't see. It's one thing to use computers every day, it is another thing completely to realize that programming them, securing them, and testing them are career options that are available," said Master Sgt. Amanda Draeger, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, Joint Mission Operations Center, 780th MI Brigade. "These events give us a chance to talk about not only the huge breadth of possible careers in information security, but also in the military. I don't plan on doing this forever, so it is an opportunity for me to start growing the next generations of professionals."
Robert Ighnat, a Department of the Army Civilian with E Company, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), volunteers because he wants to give something back to the community he lives in and share his knowledge in fields that he is strong in.
"It gives me immense joy to think that I could help someone accomplish one of their dreams or realize a passion they never had," said Ighnat. "Also, it gives me a chance to learn more about the people and organization I am supporting and allows me to expand my horizons."
Catherine McNamara, branch manager at Brooklyn Park Community Library, said it's important to introduce young people to worlds they don't have at their fingertips.
"It is especially important to do STEM events because those worlds are exploding at a rate that we cannot control or predict, and our capacity to introduce future generations to those worlds is very small. Every event matters," said McNamara.
She was especially grateful to the companies and organizations that came out to the Brooklyn Park Community Library STEM event because she identifies the local area as an "at risk community".
"Brooklyn Park is the focus of a community of opportunity, which is collection of non-profit, government, church-related organizations and a whole lot of other interests coming together to really move the needle on a community that is stressed."
McNamara said it was important for organizations to partner with libraries and schools to support their STEM events because "they are not just recruiting for their own efforts they are also investing in our society."
"It's important for our community to come together to support events like this because STEM impacts everything we do from using our smart phones, to going to the doctor and everything in between," added Doty. "In encouraging the next generation to have an interest in science, technology, engineering and math we can not only open up doors for the teens themselves, but also help to advance the discovery of new technologies and scientific breakthroughs."
The Brooklyn Park Community Library and the 15 branches of Anne Arundel County Public Library system are doing their part to 'Educate, Enrich, Inspire' our children by hosting STEM and other educational events in the community, but they can only be successful with the support of volunteers and the organizations they represent, and it will be together that we help others "raise a child".