Pueblo Boys and Girls Club awarded grant from NASA to help bolster STEM education

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The Boys and Girls Clubs of Pueblo County Sprague Center at 2601 Sprague Ave.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County announced it is the recipient of a $175,000 grant from NASA in efforts to help boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to underserved students.

The grant will be used for the organization’s Indoor Farming Innovation Zone (IFIZ) remote learning project where students will learn about indoor food production techniques including hydroponics and aquaponics. The activities will be virtual.

The club is also partnering with the I Will Projects, a Pueblo nonprofit Pueblo that works to tackle community needs like education and food security.

“We were the only after-school program selected. The rest were museums and libraries,” said Angela Giron, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County. “We felt like this was really competitive to get, but we pulled it out for Pueblo.”

The organization was one of seven chosen nationally from a list of 95 applicants. Giron said the grant will help continue an educational program the club started last year before the COVID pandemic struck.

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“We have done STEM-related activities at the Boys and Girls Club for over 25 years and we have a strong relationship with the university (CSU Pueblo),” she said. “We always want to expand our program and be able to do more. This grant helps us do that.”

NASA had two major objectives with awarding the grants. The first was to help students of color be more exposed to opportunities in STEM fields to help diversify the nation’s future workforce.

Second was targeting students in rural areas to help expand their opportunities.

“They are thinking about their workforce. They need a more diverse workplace, especially with people of color,” Giron said. “They knew they weren’t reaching people from rural parts of the country, too.”

The Boys and Girls Club was also able to include other locations with the program, including the San Luis Valley, Fremont County and the Pikes Peak region.

One of the keys to getting students interested in STEM is exposing it to them at a young age. Giron said research has shown that particularly with girls and communities of color, ages 8-10 are the critical years of getting them interested in the career path.

“We know those are the important years to be able to introduce kids, to get them excited and know their interests and continue to build on that,” she said.

The organization’s next effort will be piloting a STEM lab for students to have a physical space to work on different projects and show them how it all relates to science.

“It’s about trying to spark the interest and curiosity that kids have and then steer them in an area that is a financially rewarding career,” Giron said.

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Chieftain Education Reporter Joe McQueen can be reached at jmcqueen@gannett.com or on Twitter @jmcqueennews