When the COVID 19 pandemic hit and public schools transitioned to virtual classrooms, K-12 students in underserved communities were impacted the most when it came to educational loss. Kaye Crawford, founder of the non-profit organization STEMS4GIRLS, has been working to fill the void with additional learning opportunities for those students.
“We know that the research tells us that children and youth of color were impacted more by COVID-19, and we have a great opportunity to provide additional supplemental educational support for them,” Crawford said. “STEMS4GIRLS has an amazing tutoring program, and we provide our services for free. They can do it in person or virtual and our goal is to help them improve their performance or help them maintain. We have some students whose parents want their child to maintain that A or that B. So, we also provide services for them as well.”
STEMS4GIRLS provides a wide range of resources for girls of different age groups that will assist them in developing critical thinking skills and the ability to collaborate to enhance their math and social skills with lessons that are designed around Florida educational standards.
The collegiate group provides volunteer services and gains transferable skills by getting an inside look at how to operate a nonprofit organization. The high school and middle school groups investigate social issues that they care about and create a project that will solve the problem by the end of the semester. Finally, the youth group is provided after school Saturday enrichment activities that will give them the opportunity to explore their interests and develop their STEM literacy in order to engage and participate in classroom discussions.
Crawford has always had a passion to work with young kids and after working within several industries from corporate America to government to education, she decided to bring her passion to life by developing an early childhood development program after retiring in 2017.
Crawford got in touch with the Florida Small Business Development Center at FAMU in the early stages of STEMS4GIRLS and because of their guidance, she was able to launch in 2018.
According to Crawford, the most impactful skill she learned from the FSBDC at FAMU was how to negotiate. Through the advice from her consultant Aundra’ McGlockton, she was able to circumvent situations that could have prevented STEMS4GIRLS from moving forward.
“They have provided their expertise in marketing the program, how to negotiate which has been huge, as well as making their space and resources available when I did not have access to some of the technology and programs and software that I needed to produce material for the organization, so they were there with an open door,” Crawford said. “They are an integral part of the STEMS4GIRLS success.”
When she first came to the FSBDC at FAMU, McGlockton said she came with just an idea and they were able to work together to create a business plan, acquire funding, and turn her idea into a reality.
“From my perspective we need to have people who are not only in these big organizations doing all these wonderful things, but also small organizations where people come in with nothing and build their organization into something” McGlockton said. “She went from doing everything herself to now having 35 volunteers and 6 people who are on contract that she employs through the grants she receives. She went from virtually having no money to getting about $30,000 to $40,000 in grants a year that help her sustain her organization and help her accomplish her mission.”
“In general, most of our volunteers talk about their desire to give back and help us go forward with our mission,” Crawford said. “Our mission is to increase the representation of girls and especially girls of color living in underserved communities after school learning opportunities. These opportunities and enrichment programs we offer, we hope will stimulate their interest to pursue science technology engineering and math careers throughout their education.”
Several challenges arose while working to get the program up-and-running such as finding an organization that would allow her to operate her after school program, having a huge turnover of volunteers each year as they graduated, and getting funding for administrative support.
“She was trying to negotiate an equitable arrangement with another organization she was working with,” McGlockton said. “So, my conversation was to basically help her focus on her objective and develop a strategy to negotiate with that organization so she could get what she wants. She was able to do that.”
After reaching out to the Oasis Center for Women and Girls and obtaining space for her program, she was able to get the ball rolling and with the assistance from the FSBDC at FAMU she was able to start tackling these challenges.
“I’m proud of Kaye,” McGlockton said. She took our advice, she implemented it and she didn’t give up and she was able to accomplish her goals. That’s what business and really life is all about. Deciding where you want to go and putting in the energy, taking good advice and implementing that good advice to help you get where you want to go. That’s what she did.”
Now, Crawford is making an impactful difference within the community by teaching the youth in a fun and enjoyable way while simultaneously building their confidence in order to engage in conversations in the classroom.
“The impact that STEMS4GIRLS is having in the Tallahassee Leon County community cannot be overstated particularly when we hear parents and our youth giving testimonies about the impact that having a tutor or mentor helped them succeed as well as open their eyes to other career opportunities and education in science and technology is what stems4girls mission is all about. To hear those testimonies is like an affirmation that there is a need for more afterschool stem related programs.”
While she is still working to build up the organization, Crawford has more confidence in her ability to overcome challenges with the assistance and guidance from the FSBDC at FAMU.
“I am extremely satisfied with the service and the advice that I have gotten,” Crawford said. “They were there when I needed advice and services the most. I would recommend the SBDC services because of the expertise that they provide and even if an organization is young or mature, I believe iron sharpens iron.”