Engineering Students Promote Program

DeJ'on Slaughter

NSBE members show benefits of STEM education

They appear to have their lives and their futures well in hand. DeJ’on Slaughter and George White are seniors in the School of Computing and Engineering. Both have part-time jobs that may stretch into permanent positions after graduation. They dress the part, too, looking very much like young professionals on “casual Friday.”

Given their situations, they could be excused for just coasting to the finish line, with their May 17 graduation coming up fast.

Not good enough for them.

They are the stalwarts of UMKC’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and they have a message to communicate to the young junior high and high school kids who are standing where they once stood years ago.

A teacher at Sumner Academy saw potential in the young man in drafting class and took a special interest in him. In addition to regular classroom activities, the instructor let him experiment with software that made it possible to render structural designs in 3D. Slaughter was hooked.

Fast forward to his senior year at UMKC, where he is finishing his degree in Civil Engineering in the School of Computing and Engineering.

President of UMKC’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Slaughter is a walking, talking advertisement for engineering school, UMKC-style. He works half-days for a local architecture and engineering firm, kept on by them even after his internship expired. At the frequent opportunities to meet other engineers that are common in Kansas City, he is there, passing out business cards, getting a résumé into the right hands – in other words, being professional.

NSBE is the largest student-run organization in the country, made up of about 30,000 students on 250 campuses. When Slaughter and fellow student George White joined the chapter at UMKC, they found a faltering group that was not engaged in outreach to high schools. That quickly changed.

NSBE’s pride and joy is NSBE Jr. Slaughter, White and other members of the UMKC NSBE chapter devote long hours helping the juniors learn what is expected of a professional engineer.

With all he has going on, he still makes time, in the manner of his high school teacher, to work with young people like himself who are drawn to engineering.

Students from 9th grade on up can join NSBE Jr. With good corporate sponsors and a close relationship with Kansas City’s STEM Alliance, DeJ’on steers kids to the sciences, technology, math and engineering.

For the price of a latte, high school students can attend sessions where they will learn – not engineering – but the making of a professional. There are sessions on studying, dress, how to network effectively, etiquette and public speaking, capped off with a rocket competition.

“We had a session, and six students returned the next week,” White said. “A sure sign of our success, to get them here at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.

George White

“DeJ’on and I are on the same wavelength. We hit it off right away. We both wanted to distinguish ourselves from the other organizations. We had a lot we wanted to accomplish.”

White came to engineering naturally, technical-minded and drawn to every engineering camp around when he was young. But a chance to play football at another college lured him away.

He completed a degree in business, but the engineering interest was still alive. He came to UMKC to earn a second degree, concluding, quite wisely, that the combination of the two degrees would be a big asset.

“NSBE Jr. is growing and the Kauffman Foundation is now working with us,” White said. “They changed their Kauffman Scholars program. Instead of requiring the scholars to do certain activities, they are giving them resources and expecting them to make the necessary connections on their own – another way of making the kids assume responsibility.”

High school students contemplating Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) fields are invited to meet students from UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering at the 2nd Annual Youth Minority Engineering Night. The open house will run from 6 to 9 p.m. May 13 at the Kauffman Conference Center, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, Mo.

The School of Computing and Engineering is completely supportive of NSBE Jr.

“They told us whatever we need, they’ll do all they can,” White continued. “Admissions came to one session and talked to the parents, especially about scholarships. Now we’re lining up sponsors to take the juniors to NSBE Nationals. They will attend seminars on leadership, public speaking and professional demeanor. There are competitions, too:  a science fair, an engineering design contest, robotics and a trimathalon. For the collegiate members, one of the most important things is the career fair.”

White worked part-time at Black and Veatch and Burns and McDonnell, got involved with NSBE Jr. and was asked to join the STEM Alliance Advisory Board.

“The proximity to engineering companies can’t be beat anywhere else,” White offered. “I fulfilled my personal plan, but I also had the privilege to positively impact my community.”

Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.


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