T.J., Grade 7

[With engineering], I can use my imagination and mind to build different things that people can use.

When T.J. first saw the large, cut-out block letters on the door to the Boys & Girls Club of Newark’s STEM Center, he was confused.

“I thought, ‘What is STEM?’” he said.

BGCN was T.J. first formal introduction to a STEM-based curriculum, which was not prominent at Newark Legacy, where he had attended school prior to its merger with Great Oaks.

T.J. wants to be an engineer when he grows up. “[With engineering], I can use my imagination and mind to build different things that people can use,” he said.

Since first attending BGCN’s programming two years ago for our 2016 Summer Camp, T.J. has taken an active role in our STEM programming. Through his eager engagement in afterschool STEM programming, he has built a comfortable rapport with our STEM Coordinator, Vaughn Crosby.

This past summer, he also took part in BGCN’s first STEM Fair. T.J., along with four other Club Members, built an erupting volcano that they demonstrated to parents and peers. Not only was the group able to demonstrate the physical properties of the volcano — by causing the volcano to erupt after pouring baking soda directly into a bowl of vinegar — but they also exhibited a clear understanding of the scientific properties of properties.


When several of the kids presenting during the STEM Fair had to leave early, T.J. stepped up to present on the slime project — a project he hadn’t worked on. With confident charisma, he excitedly shared the scientific process the group had undergone to create the slime, nodding enthusiastically as a parent taught him about the underlying scientific concepts.

Participating in the STEM Fair taught T.J. to work effectively in a group setting. But being at BGCN has taught him much more when it comes to managing his emotions and dealing with others.

“BGCN changed me as a person. I was a person that would always get angry, and have since learned to control my emotions. Every time I’m having a bad day, I can’t wait to come here. I’m excited to come to BGCN.”