STEMS4GIRLS closing achievement gap

Kaye Crawford is the Founder of STEMS4GIRLS, a STEM literacy and enrichment program in Tallahassee.
Photo courtesy: Cilicia Anderson

Underrepresentation of Black people in science, technology, engineering, and
math (STEM) fields is a result of limited access to quality education, and lack of
encouragement to pursue jobs in STEM from an early age.

As an advocate for high-quality early childhood education, Kaye Crawford is
promoting equity and inclusion in STEM through her non-profit Tallahassee-
based organization, STEMS4GIRLS. The organization offers a STEM literacy
enrichment and tutoring after-school program as well as youth community service
and civic engagement opportunities.

Crawford said that the idea for STEMS4GIRLS had been percolating for a
number of years. With a master’s degree in early childhood education and a
passion for nurturing children’s interest in STEM studies, Crawford strives to build
mentorships between youth participants and STEMS4GIRLS volunteers through
interactive individual and group tutoring sessions.

“Being retired, I felt that I had an opportunity to give back to the community and
help youth that are struggling and may not have access to the resources to get
help,” Crawford said. “The cost of tutoring can be relatively expensive, so I
thought I could help by offering a tutoring service for those young children that
had great potential but just needed some extra support. That was the beginning
of how I put together this big dream with the idea that no child should be left

Its location in Tallahassee offers a pipeline of student volunteers between three
major campuses — Florida State University, Florida A&M University and
Tallahassee Community College. Volunteers work with skilled education
professionals to create a curriculum to the Florida Department of Education’s

While students from grades 2-12 can benefit from tutoring support, volunteers
like 20-year-old FAMU computer science student Alaisha Johnson, gain
experience in leadership and curriculum development.

“It’s been wonderful watching the children develop, grow and find new interests
and passions,” Johnson said. “It’s fun watching them become interested in the
topics and learn and get excited when they get their answers right. It’s been fun.”

Johnson believes that showing children they can continue learning outside of
school helps them connect their lessons to real world scenarios, keeping them
engaged in the presentations and activities they do at STEMS4GIRLS.

“I feel like the children are responding very well to the curriculum,” Johnson said.
“ You can tell that they’re very engaged and they’re enjoying it. They’re answering
questions, laughing, giggling, giving examples. I feel like that’s a great way of
showing that they’re interested and excited to learn.”

Over the years, Crawford has seen many children come into the program with
limited opportunities to explore STEM concepts. After being given the
opportunity, Crawford said she has witnessed increased interest and curiosity in
children like fifth-grader Savannah Washington.

“I really like science and math,” Washington said. “We do presentations and
activities to exercise the subjects. The volunteers are really patient with the kids,
including me, and they also make sure that we understand. They’re fun and
energetic. I like the group sessions because if I don’t know something, somebody
else might know something. Therefore, they can give information on how they
learned it and how they remembered it. “

Seeing their grades improve in STEM subjects reassures Crawford that the
children not only understand the concepts, but improve their literacy and
vocabulary so that when they’re in the classroom, they can comfortably engage
in the conversation.

“As much as the kids are growing, I feel like I am growing as well,” Crawford said.
“I am developing and honing latent leadership skills that were there, and are now
coming to fruition. I think that it gives me a sense of purpose that I may not have
had the opportunity to challenge had I not started my own business.”