N'dira Ft. Meade Group shot

Offering a hands-on approach to learn about science, technology, engineering and math through exhibits and programming.

Cultivating Confidence Through STEM

N'dira and mom

Three years ago, N’dira M. began attending Ft. Meade Children & Youth Center, a military affiliate of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Before joining, she was shy and quiet, more of a wallflower than a social butterfly. She is physically challenged by cerebral palsy, and struggles with the use of her lower body. While she’s fierce, brave, and intelligent, she found it challenging to be confident in herself.

At the Youth Center, though, that all changed.

In 2018, Ft. Meade Children & Youth Center received a STEM Center of Innovation grant from Raytheon, and the center opened in 2019, one of four new Centers of Innovation that opened on military installations nationwide this year.

From the beginning, the new STEM Center of Innovation offered N’dira, who is now 12 years old, a hands-on approach to learn about science, technology, engineering and math through exhibits and programming. The stimulating model curriculum allowed her to use her hands and mind, giving her access to educational opportunities that could only be obtained through her daily interaction and attendance at Ft. Meade.

Through the STEM Center of Innovation, she even had the opportunity to participate in a live Q&A with astronauts on the International Space Station earlier this fall. N’dira was the first person to stand up to ask a question following the presentation, and having the chance to spend time in the Center of Innovation has only deepened her interest in things like science and space. In fact, she aspires to become a teacher when she grows up.

“Without a doubt, N’dira’s time at Ft. Meade has provided her with a community that has offered her support and planted seeds of love that have reaped a bounty of courage and confidence,” said Mareba, N’dira’s mother, who served in the Air Force and now works for the Department of Defense. “My family is well-supported by the Club offering such rich afterschool experiences, and N’dira and I are both grateful to this program. I know that one day she will soar above the stars, because today, she is seeing beyond her challenges.”

To learn more about how Boys & Girls Clubs of America, along with partners like Raytheon, is doing whatever it takes to provide support for military-connected youth like N’dira and their families, visit BGCA.org/military.



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