“Yes… I was lucky, but our kids should not have to be lucky.”
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to our website! Please take a few minutes to look around and make yourself at home.
The Route to STEM Foundation was born out of my passion for contributing to the success of the the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians. A passion deeply rooted in my own life experience. My route to STEM was through Mechanical Engineering at Florida A&M University and I am a living example of how a STEM education, mentoring, scholarships, and a lot of luck can change your life. Yes…I was lucky, but our kids should not have to be lucky.
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to have a 9th grade teacher explain how taking stuff apart at home to see what’s inside was the sign of a future engineer. I took stuff apart all the time and got in trouble for it so this guy was really speaking my language. He was the first mechanical engineer that I had ever met.
A few years after that, I was a college student whose undergraduate education was being paid for by partial scholarships, work, student loans, and good saving habits (also referred to as “knowing how to be broke and just living like that”). I was cruising along on my way to a bachelor’s degree and a $50,000 per year dream job as a mechanical engineer when I met a professor by the name of Dr. Peter Kalu who would change course of my life. As a mentor, he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. That’s the fairy tale version. What really happened is he cursed me out when I told him that I was happy with a C in his class. He told me that he saw way more potential in me and he wouldn’t let me off the hook with mediocrity. Then he challenged me to apply myself and see what happens. I did…and a lot happened! Two years later, word slowly spread about the first year graduate school student who scored so high on the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. Qualifying Examination that the committee accepted him into the program without any discussion…and the rest is history.
Finally, I was lucky enough to have friends who graduated before me and called back to give me advice on everything from resumes, interviews, and salary negotiations, to financial planning and retirement. Now I do the same for every college student I mentor.
Once again…yes, I was lucky, but our kids should not have to be lucky. Through this Foundation’s work, we hope to remove luck from the equation by being available as mentors, providing scholarships, and seeking out opportunities to help the next generation of students navigate their path to a STEM career.
Hopefully, you find our cause worthy enough to join us in making a difference.
Steven T. Downey II, Ph.D.