Mother-Daughter Entrepreneurs Work to Advance STEM Education

[Part 1 ] Mother-Daughter Entrepreneurs Work to Advance Youth STEM Education

Photo: Kelley O. Williams & Rachel Williams
(Image: Paige and Paxton)

On the Paige & Paxton Website, it is noted that after 5th and 6th grades, children lose interest in non-traditional career options. How has the company leveraged relationships within the small business community to generate dynamic future job opportunities for these young minds?

Rachel: We believe that the solution is exposing children to STEM early and often. Currently, we partner with school systems to do just that. As there are more than 1.6 million children under the age of 6, Paige & Paxton are positioned to make a real impact in elementary education, by helping to create and maintain a robust STEM pipeline. The stakes are high for all involved. For the U.S. to compete effectively in a global economy, we must increase STEM proficiency as well as the number of students earning degrees in the field. STEM is and will continue to be a major source for innovation and competitiveness, generating the ideas, the products and services, the companies and the industries that will create well paying jobs and a vibrant U.S. economy.

Coding and learning the language of tech is a huge developing focal point in black America. With programs such as Code Liberation and Black Girls Code successfully initiating young minds—in what meaningful way does Paige & Paxton help children learn about the new age world around them?

Kelley: Getting children, particularly girls and children of color, interested in technology is a passion to which I devote a great deal of my spare time. I am active in several pipeline-building programs.

Even though technology is an integral part of the new age world around them, many children miss the breadth of the field. Technology is not just cell phones and computers, it’s electric cars, MRI’s, ATMs, the stop light at the corner, waste to energy plants, and so on.

Paige & Paxton help children 6 and under begin to make sense of the world around them through the lens of STEM. Sure most 6-year-olds can download the latest app or use smart phones more adeptly than their parents. But Paige & Paxton bring value, by making students at a very early age aware that they can use their creativity and ingenuity to create–not just consume technology.

Finally, a critical piece of increasing the pipeline of students who pursue degrees and careers in STEM is often overlooked. The solution is not developing HTML courses for kindergartners. At the early childhood level, students need to develop the solid foundational skills of literacy, writing and math and soft skills such as confidence, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. These are the skills that equip students to take on the more advanced science and math subjects they need to be successful not only in technology and other STEM careers, but in any career.

Check out the Williams’ insights on helping children be empowered to drive change on the next page…