Ted Presume wanted to understand why the 2010 earthquake devastated his home country of Haiti. But through his interest in STEM, he discovered he could do much more than learn about it: he could help prevent such widespread destruction from happening again through a STEM career. Speaking at an event hosted by Corey Thomas, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer at Rapid 7 to celebrate Massachusetts STEM Week, Ted shared his journey of leaving his home at the age of 19 in the aftermath of the earthquake to launch a career at Nitsch Engineering.
In 2011, when he was just 19-years old, Ted and his family emigrated from Port-au-Prince, where he was born and raised, and settled in Hyde Park. Despite not knowing the English language, he began studying at the Community Academy of Science and Health.
“The first six months were tough,” he said. “I could piece a few words together, but conversations were hard. Six months later, I could speak English well and started taking math, science, physics, and chemistry, which had always been my strong subjects.” That’s when his interest in STEM started growing. “I started doing research and learning about why so many structures collapsed during the earthquake, and why so many people died,” he said. “I learned how engineering was the reason. That’s when I decided I wanted to become an engineer, learn everything I could, and then go back to Haiti to help.”
After graduating from high school and earning a degree from Bunker Hill Community College, Ted applied and was accepted to UMASS Lowell to study engineering. Upon graduating from UMASS, he landed a job at Nitsch Engineering, which was more than a successful career path. It was an opportunity to give back. “When I was in school, I didn’t have a lot of people like me to look at and say, ‘If he can make it, maybe I can too.’ What’s inspired me is to have this platform to tell my story and have kids see someone they can relate to who has made it.”
Helping to ensure a diverse future STEM workforce in Greater Boston is one of the goals of BoSTEM, a public-private partnership that aims to increase STEM interest and achievement among all Boston public middle school students, particularly those from underserved neighborhoods.
James Peyser, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, praised the partnership between United Way, Boston Public Schools and local businesses for providing field trips and activities to help engage more students in STEM.
“We need to give more young people these experiences and opportunities, and we need to particularly reach out to young men and women of color who are underrepresented in the industry. Our students need to have an understanding and appreciation of the opportunities so they can see how they can chart a plan for their futures.”
According to Change the Equation, a national organization dedicated to strengthening STEM education, the percentage of minorities in STEM careers remains virtually unchanged since 2001. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, African Americans and Latinos make up 48% of the overall U.S. workforce, yet they fill only 24% of STEM jobs. Building a pipeline of workers will also help the STEM career industry close a wide skills gap: the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress predicts that within the next decade, the nation will need one million more STEM professionals than it can produce.
David Barash M.D., Executive Director at the GE Foundation, issued this Massachusetts STEM Week Challenge to close out the event: “Think about what you can do. If you are in the STEM industry, can you partner with someone to help young people develop STEM skills? If you are an educator, is there something you can learn about STEM that you can bring back to your classrooms to share with students? Be creative!”
Photo from the STEM Expo on October 26th at the Reggie Lewis Center.