A panel from the National Society of Black Engineers spoke to about 100 Engineering students on Friday night about the group’s efforts to reach out to elementary, middle and high school students in Southeast Michigan.
The meeting — held in the Industrial & Operations Engineering Building on North Campus — featured five panelists, four of whom were past NSBE presidents at the University. The panelists — Damaune Journey, Jolene Ferguson, Erin Teague, Maurice Telesford and Deandre Reagins — addressed the organization’s role at the University and in the community.
NSBE, the largest student-run organization in the country, provides academic and professional opportunities for African-American engineers at the University and across the nation. In recent years, the University’s chapter has put an emphasis on reaching out to students in the Ypsilanti school districts.
Teague told the audience that NSBE has a responsibility to help keep African-American students in Southeast Michigan in school. She noted that the dropout rate for African-American students in Detroit is 70 percent, and those students who don’t graduate are three times as likely to end up in prison by the time they are 30 years old.
“The statistics are devastating, and they are staring us right in the face,” she said. “We all know what’s happening in Detroit. This is literally a 30-minute drive from us, and it is a tremendous opportunity to give back.”
Currently, NSBE-run programs like ACT Pro, the Pre-College Initiative, the Academic Success Program and NSBE Junior mentors students of all ages, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, with the goal of promoting interests in becoming an engineer.
Telesford — who is currently a chemistry teacher at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Mich. — said he was impressed with the outreach programs that the group has instituted since his time as president.
He added that his experience as a high school teacher has taught him that it’s important for African American students to have mentors in their lives.
“Eighty percent of my students are African American, and I don’t think they have had many role models who are doing something that they can aspire to do,” he said.
While NSBE is looking to reach out to pre-college students in the area, the group’s ultimate goal is to increase the number of minority engineers at the University.
Reagins, an Engineering student who sat on the panel, said the two efforts go hand in hand.
“I think the biggest thing is making sure we have a sustainable future,” he said. “Not only for us as members but for us as underrepresented technical individuals.”
Engineering senior Lauren Fladger, who was at the event, said the comments by the NSBE alumni reminded her of the importance of the group has both on and off campus.
“NSBE needs to step outside of its role as a support group for current engineers and press forward as an advocate for future engineers,” she said.