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These 4 TFA NY Alumni are Inspiring Students to be Leaders in STEM

Teach For America New York STEM Day

November 7, 2019

National STEM/STEAM Day is November 8. However, the importance of a strong STEM education goes beyond just one day of celebration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that STEM industries are expected to grow to nearly 9 million by 2022 (an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012 employment levels). These TFA NY alumni are not only helping students strengthen their STEM skills for present-day problem-solving, but become confident, in-demand leaders in a growing industry.

Maya Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio (N.Y. ’12) and Reuben Ogbonna (Metro Atlanta ’12)
Founders, The Marcy Lab School

Entrepreneurs, and former teachers and TFA NY staff members, Maya Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio (NY ’12) and Reuben Ogbonna (Metro Atlanta ’12), launched The Marcy Lab School in Brooklyn this summer to create an alternative pathway into high-growth tech careers for underrepresented and underserved youth. The Marcy Lab School provides an immersive education program, designed to prepare low-income students of color for full-time careers in fast-growing tech professions such as software engineering, data science, and cyber security. By combining a technical curriculum, grounded in practical, in-demand skills, with a focus on professional and social-emotional development, they aim to produce highly competent, job-ready engineers from underrepresented backgrounds and place them in high paying positions at some of the world's best tech firms. Over time, the goal is that graduates will go on to launch companies of their own, creating opportunity in their communities for those who come after them. As Maya shared with TFA, “As software engineers, our kids aren’t just building websites; they are solving abstract problems with no clear solution. Code just happens to be their tool of choice. With our economy changing beneath our feet, our program is designed to help students think through problems, analyze possible solutions, and make smart decisions based on the needs of their users. We believe this is the most valuable skill set in the American economy today and we believe there is no better training ground to develop these competencies than the wide open field of software engineering.”

Michael Oppong (New Jersey '12)
Director of Curriculum and Innovation, Code Nation
Board Chair, TFA NY Alumni Association

After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in English and Entrepreneurial Leadership and holding various positions in the private sector, Michael Oppong felt called to make greater impact within the classroom. After working as an Advisor at New Jersey SEEDS, Michael joined TFA leveraging his own experiences both observing and growing up in New Jersey's education system to bring greater educational opportunity to high school students in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. During his time there, he realized how essential access to tech education was to making this vision a reality. Now a Director of Curriculum and Innovation at Code Nation, Michael combines his love for technology and first-hand experience teaching students in low-income circumstances to create programming with his team that equips students with the technical and professional skills, experiences, connections and confidence that pave the way to successful tech careers. Today, Michael and his team at Code Nation are able to infuse their curriculum and additional learning opportunities directly into the education system, partnering with schools to offer their Intro to Web Development course as an in-school elective class or after-school club. 74% of alumni who completed two or more years of Code Nation programs are currently majoring or employed in a STEM-related field.

Jericsson Pichardo (N.Y. ’16)
Science Teacher, VISTA Academy

When Jericsson Pichardo (N.Y. ’16) joined Vista Academy, he thought it would be a good idea to create an after-school Robotics Club to help students develop and strengthen their engineering skills. That turned out to be just the beginning. Since then, this Brooklyn 6th grade science teacher has introduced students to a world of engineering & tech-based opportunities, from entering (and winning!) city-wide LEGO competitions to exploring the world of hydroponics and 3D printing. Learn more about how Jericsson is developing his students’ passion for science and equipping them with skills that will last a lifetime here.