We had the good fortune of connecting with jacob adams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacob, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
Two books that have had a profound impact on myself and my education philosophy are Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Both of these text helped me realize the role our current education system plays in maintaining the status quo as well as education’s potential to be a liberatory practice. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks describes education as the “practice of freedom.” bell hooks really pushed me to think about how the classroom space must be a space where students and teachers alike can be their true selves. This requires disrupting the current power dynamics that exist between teachers and students and creating a much more democratic learning environment. A learning environment where individuals can struggle together as they redefine and recreate the world they wish to live in.
Paulo Freire says, “true generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.” This quote from Pedagogy of the Oppressed touch me deeply. It reminded me that the goal of STEM to the Future is not to be a charitable organization. In contrast, we aim to be an organization that is rooted in community and supports the youth as they dismantle, define, and create an alternative a future for themselves and their communities.
Shortly after rereading both of these books, I began to tweak our programs so they are student-led and push the students to learn more about their communities.
I could talk about these books for days, but I highly encourage everyone to read both.
What should our readers know about your business?
STEM to the Future (STTF) was founded in 2017 by educator and activist jacob adams. jacob taught elementary school in New York City, where he received a Masters in the Art of Teaching and developed his philosophy on education. As a teacher in NYC, he noticed that even at “high performing” schools, Black and Latinx students in high-poverty neighborhoods were missing critical learning opportunities: students were not being engaged to think critically, work collaboratively, connect with new technology, or discover how to apply their learning to solve critical real-world problems. In 2016, jacob moved to Los Angeles, where he coached teachers on staff with Teach For America. Through this experience, he saw many schools unable to prioritize students’ learning with relevant science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) disciplines such as 3D design, coding, and engineering. Moreover, the teachers he supported, despite being in graduate school and having support at their schools, lacked access to curriculum that exposed students to new STEAM skills while showing them how they can use their gifts within STEAM to solve tangible real-world problems that directly affect the material conditions of their community. In the 3.5 years since our founding, STTF has trained 86 teachers in 41 schools who bring our original curriculum to their classrooms. We’ve grown to serve more than 4,000 students in 35+ neighborhoods in Los Angeles and provide access to STEAM learning experiences through direct service programs, camps, and professional development for educators. Throughout these experiences, we have collected and analyzed data from youth and educators to refine our approach, establishing ourselves as a dynamic organization that meets the needs of the community.
We plant the seed in youth as early as 5 years old, showing them that they have the potential to imagine and create the world they want. Time has long passed for Black and Latinx elementary youth to be seen as scientists, designers, and community planners. The opportunity for them to be seen as such is rare and when it is afforded to Black and Latinx youth, it is almost exclusively for high school youth. Starting this process with elementary students shows them that age isn’t a prerequisite for creating change and gives them more time to build their STEAM and activist skillset.
Black and Latinx communities, including and especially the youth, must be the ones whose voices and ideas are centered when generating solutions to the problems and systemic injustices they face. Our approach helps Black and Latinx youth build power in and with their communities to solve the grand challenges of our time.
This summer will be hosting “Freedom Summer Camp” at St. Elmo’s Village from July 12- July 23rd. Students will use 3D design, math, coding, playwriting, and photography to reimagine and create the communities they want and deserve. Register at bit.ly/sttfcamp
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’d definitely hit the Angel’s Gate Park before grabbing some tacos. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to all the freedom fighters that came before me. Also, shoutout to my mom