On Monday, former WNBA star, software engineer, and entrepreneur Niesha Butler officially started her camp program at the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM education center for kids interested in coding and robotics in downtown Brooklyn, reports the BK Reader.
The grand opening of her S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs saw a ribbon cutting on July 16 to commemorate the center’s launch and opened for business as training and other activities were already available for kids aged 6 and up.
The Brooklyn native recalled, “When I was growing up, you either had to hustle, or you had to play sports to get out.”
The program will allow inner-city youth to begin learning about game and app development, coding, and robotics at a young age, in an effort to make tech education more attainable in lower income communities.
“If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say ‘yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,’ or ‘I can also create the next app,’” Butler shared with ABC News.
Inspired by the vision of how she can make a difference as a Black woman in STEM, Butler offers her program to children in the Brooklyn area.
Having already collaborated with programs like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks, and a local AAU basketball team to provide STEM-focused classes to New York City students, Butler pursued the creation of her S.T.E.A.M. Champs center because “there’s talent in Brooklyn.”
She continued, “There’s not a lot of people of color in tech. These jobs are open for everybody and they’re empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them.”
The former CBS radio sports reporter holds a special place in her heart for S.T.E.A.M. Champs, as it was dedicated to her mother, who she recently lost.
“This means a lot, not only for me personally but all the people are looking at me and in my community,” she said.