Meet the mastermind behind the non-profit organization, AfroTechie, 18-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador, Leandra H. Understanding that STEM is vital in today’s digital age, Leandra set out to become a catalyst to improve STEM literacy throughout minority and low-income communities in Miami-Dade.
Leandra, who had the opportunity to engage with STEM-based activities at an early age realized that there were other kids, the same age or younger who had a large disadvantage as a result of their socioeconomic background. She sought to change that and teach children in underprivileged communities coding and robotics.
Since the non-profit organization’s inception in 2016, she has dedicated her time to supporting and empowering children of all ages to expand their horizons and become the change we want to see in our community. Leandra has established working partnerships with non-profit groups BotsForAll and CodeFeverMiami to spread her mission far and wide. Outside of her work in AfroTechie, she is an artist, writer, and a musician who enjoys fencing and participating in her high school theater productions.
To support AfroTechie and learn about the impact Leandra’s organization is making on Miami-Dade County, visit https://AfroTechie.org and follow on Instagram. AfroTechie is more than just a project, it’s the start of a movement that will help bridge socioeconomic gaps for generations to come.
Can you tell us a little about your project?
AfroTechie is an organization whose goal is to equalize S.T.E.M education across socioeconomic backgrounds. The organizations target demographic is adolescents and pre-teens, typically in middle school, in Miami-Dade County. In the summer and fall of 2019, AfroTechie has hosted free STEM programs for middle school children in underrepresented communities. Additionally, I have given guest lectures on the importance of STEM and am developing tools and resources for others to use to host their own programs free of charge.
Tell us how AfroTechie will live on following your Gold Award submission:
The two organizations I have partnered with, BotsforAll and CodeFeverMiami will continue to host programs like mine across the Miami-Dade County region. In order to make STEM more equitable, we have to make the tools accessible for all so I also intend to continue to gather resources, supplies, and software to compile them, and host them on my website free of charge.
What gave you the inspiration for AfroTechie?
The inspiration was simple – Our community was lacking STEM resources and clubs throughout our underprivileged communities. The root cause of the issue is a lack funding to implement STEM programs in less fortunate neighborhoods. The hefty cost of purchasing robots such as the VEX IQ Robot and purchasing its programming software makes starting a robotics club or program near impossible. Also a lack of women especially women of color in STEM Careers was a major consideration to spearhead this initiative and try to resolve this issue within my community.
Why is this project important to you, personally?
I wanted to address inequality amongst kids. Seeing less fortunate children learn unfamiliar concepts, gain a greater understanding of S.T.E.M, and enjoy building or programming a robot is what made this project worth it.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame and how?
An obstacle I encountered during the summer of 2019 was the disparity between the students who registered for the program vs. the number of students who would attend meetings due to conflicts or availability. I overcame this obstacle by rewarding students who would consistently attend meetings. I also adjusted the schedule from the original 3x per week commitment to once a week from 9:00AM - 5:30PM.
How does this project contribute to your goals for the future?
It is because of this project that I wish to continue to equalize access to S.T.E.M regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic background. When I go to college, I intend to earn a degree in computer science with the goal of continuing to integrate the arts and S.T.E.M. Following graduation, I want to continue to introduce AfroTechie to the younger generations and resume my work to bring STEM to lower income communities.
What did you learn about your community in this process?
I learned that my community is eager to support programs like my own. The people and kids I have worked with have been so supportive and encouraging that it motivated me to come and work to grow my organization each day.
What did you learn about YOURSELF?
I learned that I enjoy teaching STEM-based activities to children who are younger than me. And while teaching was fun, it was very stressful. It’s given me a greater appreciation for my teachers, past and present, who dedicate their lives to teaching children, five days a week. I also learned that I could relate to children and their struggles. Some students were more hesitant to ask for help which made me remind them that asking for help is ok and it’s not shameful (which, ironically, is a problem that I suffer from). The biggest thing I learned about myself during this project is to not be too hard on myself and don't let my perfectionist tendencies get into my head. I always want everything to be perfect and I get frustrated when a bump in the road trips me up. I've learned that you can't always account for everything and it's best to not let it consume you.
Has your project received a previous awards or accolades?
I received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners for my work. I was also invited to guest speak at the 2021 Code/Art Fest where I was introduced by the CEO of the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida. I also earned my Silver Award through this project where I was recognized in the Miami Herald and the National Girl Scout Newsletter.
What college will you be attending? Have you declared major?
I’m undecided on which college I will be attending in the fall, however, I intend to declare a double major in computer science and theater.
Girl Scouts has made me a dauntless leader who stands proudly in service for her community.