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Youth program sets sights on STEM

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A nonprofit focused on developing character in young men is planning to add programming geared toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and they’re hoping a fundraiser later this month will help.

The Bloom Project helps Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, youth ages 12–18 explore career paths, prepare for college, participate in service projects and more through its various programs.

Founder Arnetta Scruggs, who named the program after her grandfather (his nickname was “Bloom”), said many of the boys — they’re known as “kings” in the program — have expressed interest in STEM careers. The programming is still in the planning phase, but Scruggs said it will likely be embedded into Bloom’s current offerings: Project King and Royal Mentality.

Project King, Scruggs explained, is a group mentoring program that meets monthly. It was launched after a suggestion from an attendee at the organization’s annual Kings Feast, an event that brought together young men and professional men from various fields for mentoring opportunities.

“One year, one of the young men came up to me and said, ‘Hey, what happens after I meet this professional male? I won’t see him again until a year later.’ He asked about doing monthly workshops where we invite professional men to come out and talk about different topics,” Scruggs said, adding that the program is continually reshaped based on the boys’ expressed interests and needs. 

“That’s what Bloom is about — giving our young men a voice,” she said. “We don’t have a book we go by. We talk to our teens about everything, and that’s where the topics come from. … They have fully created their own brotherhood and their own organization. We always tell them, ‘This is your organization. What would you like to see happen?’”

The kings expressed interest in STEM, and a plan is now in the works, Scruggs said. Similarly, a plan of action borne from a Twitter discussion is fueling the program’s fundraising efforts.

Indianapolis native Jeff Williams volunteered with Bloom while living in the Circle City, and even after moving to Dallas, Texas, he wanted to stay involved.

“I had opportunities that other kids who looked like me might not have had. Bloom Project brought that sense of purpose back to reality for me, and I got to see it firsthand. The kids are extremely curious, inquisitive and they wanted to learn. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of desire; it was a lack of opportunity,” he said. “(I told Arnetta), if there was any opportunity for me to help in any kind of way, I wanted to be a part of that.”

With his mind open to opportunities to contribute, a conversation on Twitter started Williams’ wheels turning.

“There was a discussion going on on Twitter about not having a lot of opportunities for young professionals to dress up really nice and go out and have fun, and do it for a good cause,” Williams said. 

That conversation, his desire to continue to help the Bloom Project and his knowledge of millennials’ willingness to engage with nonprofits combined to create Pardi Gras, a black-tie event marketed toward millennials (but open to anyone) with the aim of raising $25,000 for Bloom’s future STEM initiatives. 

Williams said Indianapolis’ growing tech scene and a need for more diversity in tech jobs also add to the importance of the event.

“The Googles and the Salesforces of the world want to attract diversity, because it’s great business and it’s just where society is heading, but what they’re finding out is there’s a pipeline gap making it difficult for them to actually fulfill those roles,” he said. “Our objective was simple: How can we bridge the gap in tech and do it through Bloom Project and tackle that issue on our home front?”

Pardi Gras will be held at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $70 and include specialty cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Music will be provided by DJ Limelight, and radio host Keisha Nicole will host the event.

Keisha Nicole, a Los Angeles native who has been in Indianapolis for about two years, has done work to combat bullying and promote self-esteem among young people. She said it’s important to her that she’s a positive role model for children, and she’s fully behind the Bloom Project’s mission.

“I’m excited to help Bloom raise money for STEM,” she said. “I think it’s positive for young men to aspire to careers besides being athletes.”


For more information about Pardi Gras or to buy tickets, visit pardigrasball.splashthat.com.

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