Meet Shereka Jackson of Future Stars
As a Phoenix, native it is my responsible to give back to my community. When I was in the seventh-grade I was exposed to computers. I loved to work on cars with my cousins and working on computers just fell in line with that. I attended the University of Arizona and majored in Management Information System and Operational Management. I have work as an IT professional for 20 years in local government, as well as mentoring youth and serving the community.
I started mentoring youth while in college and continued by coaching high school girls’ basketball for 7 years after graduating from college. While coaching, I noticed that students were not prepare to attend college after high school and that there was a lack of STEM education that was being provided to inner city youth. In 2008 I founded Future Stars, Inc a nonprofit that provides opportunities for inner city youth to achieve their goals of higher education with a focus of sport and technology. Future Stars has provided mentorship of student athlete to prepare them for college to play sports or just attend college. We also host internet safety workshops throughout the community to promote safe usage of computers.
In 2015 we launched the Hands On STEM program in the Faye Gray Recreation Center and the Hands On STEM Fair. The program is a nine month programs that exposes inner city youth to STEM education with activities that are fun, engaging and promotes critical thinking. The Hands On STEM program is currently in two community centers and has approximately 60 students that attend each year. There have been over 900 attendees to the Hands On STEM Fair that takes place the last Saturday in April every year. We will continue to provide STEM education to the South Phoenix community to make sure they know that they are smart enough and can have a STEM career.
The challenges that I have faced is funding. Continue to push forward even when I was not receiving grants by using my resources and reaching out to others to provide in kind support. When it is time for you and your organizations to shine, God will make it happen. If you’re doing the work for the right reason everything will always works itself out.
The newest challenge is COVID-19 as our programming is direct services, in person workshop. We now have to figure out how to deliver our programming virtual and still engage the students. When most of your service area or youth that are affected by the digital divide they how to you provide services? This is the question we are working to answer.
I provide STEM education and college readiness workshops to inner city youth. I provide opportunity for the youth to be empowered, engaged in their learning and provide a fun safe environment for the whole family. I specialize in STEM and am know for hosting great workshop and the largest STEM fair in South Phoenix.
What I am proud of is that Future Stars is setting itself apart from other STEM programs because we serve a population that is not able to afford STEM programs or have the transportation to get to the program. We bring the STEM program to the community. We making being a nerd cool and that being in a STEM career does look like them and they too can do it.
Other services that we provide is training for teachers and afterschool professional that want to learn how to have a successful STEM program. We teach them how to engage the student, empower the student and inspire them.
I personally define as success when I see a youth that is successful at completing a STEM activity that they did not want to do. When students come back to me and say that they enjoyed the workshop or fair and the excitement in their eyes and smiles on their faces. One of the first STEM students from the Hands On STEM program graduating from high school and she want to pursue cyber security. That is a success to me.