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SCOUTING: How will an emphasis on STEM accomplish all those things? B.H.: Throughout the 21st century, technology will drive everything. We’re getting into the realm of pure science fiction now, where we may have cars that don’t need roads and you could easily travel to the moon—perhaps even live on the moon and travel to Mars. Your imagination could go wild on the technological innovations.


SCOUTING: You speak in schools across the country. What do you tell kids? B.H.: I want them to realize who they really are. We all go through life [forgetting] that we are beings with infinite possibilities. We have certain skills that are uniquely our talents, but we’re also born with the ability to acquire talents. That’s what education is all about. That’s what Scouting is all about.


The other thing that I remind


young folks is that they were born for a reason. There is a reason that all of us are put on this planet. And that is to do something, or perhaps some things. If you look at Steve Jobs—the impact that one individual had on a nation, on a world—it underscores how powerful we are individually.


SCOUTING: Why do so few students seem to be pursuing STEM? B.H.: Again, it’s the way they’re being taught. And in many of our com- munities, particularly underserved communities, it has to do with exposure and experience. They’re not being exposed to people who do things in these fields. I’ll just point to the African-American community. When our kids look at television, the people who look like them are doing great things as musicians, or rappers, or athletes. They don’t see the Bernard Harrises or the other African-American scientists and engi- neers out there.


say, jokingly, to kids in our summer science camps, “I know that in your class you may be teased about being smart. You like math, you like science. But the next time someone calls you out for being smart, you look them straight in the eyes and tell them that, one day, they will be working for you!”


‘We all go through life forgetting that we are beings with infinite possibilities.’


SCOUTING: Who are some of those sci- entists and engineers? B.H.: I think the kids ought not to look for iconic role models, but to the neighbor next door who’s an engineer at Exxon-Mobil, the profes- sor at the University of Houston or UT Southwestern, or the biology or chemistry teacher in their school who can show them what these subjects are about. People I call the “real heroes.”


SCOUTING: How do you recommend they find those people, if they don’t find them in school? B.H.: We have a program called the Dream Tour. We travel all across this nation—in fact, we also went to Africa—to get the kids excited about a STEM education. We bring in these rock stars of STEM, young scientists, engineers, and technologists, and they tell their stories. You want to know how to change where we’re going? You change it by raising awareness, and that’s what we’re doing.


SCOUTING: What about the kids who don’t want to be identified with the “geeks” because it’s not “cool”? B.H.: [Laughs] The geeks? The geeks rule the world! Every major technol- ogy company is headed by a geek. I


SCOUTING: You mentioned the Dream Tour. Tell us about your science camps. B.H.: The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps are for middle school students. They’re two-week residential programs, held in July and August. They’re free to the kids, thanks to the support we get from Exxon-Mobil, so we’re able to target economically dis- advantaged youth. We try to match the demographics


of the area. In inner-city Houston, we may have more African-Americans. But if we’re down in the valley in Texas, that program is almost 100 percent Hispanic. And if we’re in Oklahoma, it’s mostly American Indians. We try to mix it up.


SCOUTING: Communities that need this sort of training. B.H.: Well, they’re our future. If you look at the demographics of this country, you realize we are no longer a country that has a majority. We are a country of minorities. And if we don’t figure out a way to increase the edu- cational process of African-American and Hispanic kids, especially, then this country is going to lose in the long run. So it’s in the interest of us all.


SCOUTING: What do the kids do when they go to camp? B.H.: They’re team-taught by profes- sors and secondary educators. Each university has its own theme. Students are given a core problem like clean energy, aerospace, or geology. We ask the instructors to make it interactive, hands-on.


MAY•JUNE 2012 ¿ S COUTING 35


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