UNION COUNTY, N.C. — There are many ways a high schooler could spend their afternoon. Some choose sports, online activities, or hanging out with friends.
Two Marvin Ridge High School seniors are choosing to teach concepts of science, technology, engineering, and math instead.
"We come from like the suburbs, Marvin Ridge High School, and obviously, there's a lot of like STEM programs there for elementary schoolers and middle schoolers, that are pretty widely accessible," Shitij Govil, co-founder of Tech for Intellect, said.
Marvin Ridge High School is a part of the Union County Public Schools system. The school is one of the top performers in the state. The 2021 School Performance numbers show that 86.9% of all students are grade-level proficient.
That's compared to the state where only 51.4% of all North Carolina students are considered grade-level proficient.
"We saw that in inner Charlotte for many like low income or refugee/ immigrant students," Govil said. "Those opportunities didn't exist in their schools or just in community programs."
According to the Department of Labor, jobs in STEM fields are expected to grow by almost 11% in the next 10 years. Non-STEM jobs are expected to grow by half this.
However, millions of STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in the next few years because employers don’t have enough qualified people to apply.
What started out as an idea between friends transformed into action.
"These two ambitious guys came to us and said, you know, 'We've got an idea here, would you like to test it out with us,'" Brent Morris, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte executive founder, said.
The organization focuses on bringing STEM education to Hispanic, Black, and Southeast-Asian immigrant, refugee, and low-income students. They've worked with organizations like the Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations, and Refugee Support Services.
The activities range from hands-on activities like making a hydraulic arm out of household materials or advanced activities like coding a robot or creating a circuit.
"We try to rethink STEM for the kids if you will, we try to do activities, which I would say make STEM fun for them," Edward Ding, co-founder of Tech for Intellect, said. "So, stuff like Lego robots, and, you know, building towers and like competing against each other."
Before the teens graduate, they want to expand their program's reach.
"If any community partners want to help us sponsor some grants, so that we can, you know, get facilities or get equipment for their students to use, and we will also be very excited for that," Govil said.
The two teens want to use their privilege to give back.
"Robotics that we have at our school and what not, we tend to take those things for granted," Ding said. "I feel like we have all these things, and we just grew up with it and we don't stop to think like, other people are not even aware of this."
The seniors have helped around 100 students -- in just under a year.
"I think they've come with integrity; they come with professionalism," Morris said. "They've come with an entrepreneurial spirit of where we had to test out these ideas. We know we're going to make some mistakes, but we're ultimately looking to learn and grow, and impact this community, which doesn't get any better."
The students are looking for more space, equipment, and students to teach STEM activities too. If you or someone you know is interested in partnering with the student email firstname.lastname@example.org.