STEAM:CODERS Paves a Path for Pasadena Youth

By Pasadena Community Foundation

The focus in the classroom is evident as elementary-age students at Washington Elementary STEM Magnet control images on a video screen using coding. These kids are lucky participants of STEAM:CODERS, a Pasadena nonprofit that inspires underrepresented students and their families through Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) – all in preparation for academic and career opportunities.

STEAM:CODERS was one of PCF’s Racial Equity Grantees in 2021 in support of its important work bridging the digital divide for local students. PCF visited a summer-session STEAM:CODERS classroom in late June and were lucky to meet Iria Taylor and McKenzie Street, two college-age program instructors who were once STEAM:CODERS participants themselves. The young women shared with us the difference STEAM:CODERS and STEAM-based education has made in their educational journeys.

McKenzie Street & Iria Taylor, STEAM:CODERS instructors who credit the organization with inspiring their own love of technology.

“Take That Step Forward and Try It”

Iria Taylor graduated from Pasadena High School and is now a nursing major at Howard University. Urged by her dad, who is a security tech manager, Iria joined STEAM:CODERS as a 5th grader just as the organization was starting in 2015. “My dad wanted to give us that experience and to learn more about computers and technology. Even though my sister and I were really the only girls in the classroom, we had so much fun playing games and putting in the coding blocks to see the little character move on the screen based on what I told it to do.”

In high school, Iria was an Honors and AP student in the Creative Arts, Media, and Design (CAMAD) pathway and used her computer skills to become adept in Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, and other creative programs. She sees STEAM:CODERS as her first important introduction to computers and now relishes serving as female role model in the classroom, showing younger students – especially the girls – that “women can thrive in this field and to take that step forward and try it.”

“I Loved Learning the Science Behind Computers”

McKenzie Street – a recent graduate of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and bound for NYU in the fall – was a STEAM:CODERS participant from 6th to 9th grade, an experience that she recognizes as kindling her lasting love of computer science. “The program definitely had an impact on my education because it taught me to try new things that are out of my comfort zone, and it also encouraged me to take the computer track in high school. I loved learning the science behind computers.”

McKenzie went on to volunteer with STEAM:CODERS as a high school student, and this summer, like Iria, she is a paid classroom instructor. She is happy to be helping the next generation of computer-minded students, noting that “technology is part of everything we do now, and it’s so integrated into education. Computer science classes are also a great way to learn logic, computational, and math skills and can help kids excel in other subjects in school.” McKenzie plans to major in media/communications at NYU and hopes she can leverage her degree with a tech-related company.