At Berkeley High School, Black students remain underrepresented in STEM environments. National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) brings together African American students who are interested in a career in STEM.
NSBE is a national society with chapters throughout the U.S., including collegiate, junior, and professional chapters. Dwayne Byndloss is a staff member at BHS, working at Bridge, a four-year college preparatory program and academic support system. He started a Junior chapter of NSBE and became the staff advisor at BHS roughly twenty years ago.
“The goal is recruitment, retention and graduation,” said Byndloss. He has been a part of this organization since he was in college. “What this chapter did was it brought all the African American students together that were passionate about doing STEM,” he said.
Students are recruited to join NSBE from STEM class teachers who refer them to Byndloss, and receive presentations from NSBE in classes and info sessions. Senior and Vice President of NSBE at BHS, Aris Carter said, “One of the reasons I got recruited was because I was in intermediate robotics my freshman year.” He knew before joining the club that he was interested in robotics, but that NSBE made him “more confident to take STEM classes at Berkeley High.”
“One of the main things at Berkeley High is that a lot of the African American students that will pursue and/or are passionate about schooling and STEM were kind of isolated in classes,” Byndloss said.
Sometimes in STEM classes at BHS, there is only one African American student, causing isolation and frustration for students of color. Phoeben Worku is currently a junior at BHS, as well as the secretary of the BHS Junior chapter of NSBE. She said, “I’ve experienced being the only Black student in the majority of the STEM classes I’ve taken at BHS and at certain times it has felt isolating.”
According to Mr. Byndloss, NSBE has a few goals they hope to achieve. He stated, “One, we want to expose them to college role models that look like them.” There is a NSBE chapter at UC Berkeley and they work closely with and mentor the BHS NSBE students. Having older role models allows the BHS student members of NSBE to see college students succeeding in pursuing STEM fields.
Berkeley High’s NSBE chapter strives to introduce all different STEM pathways to Black students that may not be aware of all the various opportunities STEM careers offer. Worku said, “I’ve learned about a lot of different opportunities at Berkeley High to pursue STEM. I’ve learned about the CTE classes offered and I’ve also learned about classes you can take at Berkeley City College through dual enrollment.” The club achieves this goal by hosting guest speakers and providing experiences for the students. Carter said, “We’ve been on a lot of field trips and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of other Black people who are also interested in STEM.”
The students and staff of NSBE at BHS are extremely proud of a few great highlights that have happened in the last couple of years. In the 2021-2022 school year, five African American students at BHS took AP Physics, which had never been done before at this school. Another significant achievement was for the first time in the history of the NSBE Junior Chapter at Berkeley High School, the club was able to attend a national conference in Los Angeles. Byndloss said, “It was over 10,000 people at this conference: probably 7,000 were college students… and they also had 3000 professionals.” BHS students were in workshops with other high schools and were able to see other students interested in the same topics as them with similar backgrounds. This year, the NSBE Junior Chapter at BHS will be attending the NSBE national conference in Kansas City.
Ultimately, Byndloss stated that the overall objective of having a Junior chapter of NSBE at BHS is to, “(Encourage Black students to) take the classes they need to in high school to make them eligible to get into impacted programs on the college level and encourage them to pursue their dreams.”
Black students interested in STEM and seeking a supportive community are welcome to NSBE meetings that meet twice a month on Wednesdays during lunch in G107.