A group of 13 volunteers from WaFd Bank and United Way Staff members pose with completed STEM kits.
Destiny Magana Pablo

Without the help of volunteers, some tasks feel impossible to tackle. Our team at Early Learning Multnomah has been working tirelessly to put together Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) kits for eight culturally specific communities in six languages to be received by kids in our area. The task of putting the kits together can be daunting alone, but thanks to our friends who came and volunteered from WaFd Bank, we were able to tackle it together!

Kyle Hanson, the leader of United Way's workplace giving program from WaFd Bank, recruited members of his team to spend  part of their day at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette offices to help our Early Learning Multnomah and Hands on Greater Portland teams assemble STEM kits. Hanson was helped by fellow employee Madi Jones, who volunteered to help coordinate the WaFd Bank STEM kit building session. During that time, our team learned a lot about the volunteers who had been long-time volunteers and donors – one person had been involved with United Way since they were 15 years old. Another volunteer has donated to United Way for the last 40 years. The stories of the volunteers connecting to our work was inspiring and made our time together fly by. Before we knew it, we had assembled, stamped, and prepped more than 700 STEM boxes within two hours!

Each version of the kit is an authentic reflection of the African American, Arabic, Latino, Native American, Nepali, Russian (Slavic), Somali, and Vietnamese cultures, highlighting children representative of each culture along with elevating prominent women and people of color working in STEM careers within each community.

The kits, co-created by four United Way community-based partners (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Native American Youth and Family Center, public schools K-3rd in the Latino Network) are culturally specific, simple, and developmentally appropriate ways to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with young children. Each version of the kit is an authentic reflection of the African American, Arabic, Latino, Native American, Nepali, Russian (Slavic), Somali, and Vietnamese cultures, highlighting children representative of each culture along with elevating prominent women and people of color working in STEM careers within each community. Many volunteers noted how they thought culturally specific STEM boxes were a great idea and some of the volunteers who had experience in public education noted how the incredible impact these kits can be to young children.

While we accomplished a lot with our wonderful volunteers from WaFd Bank, there is still plenty of work to be done. There are 3,000 more STEM kits that are in different phases of assembly and will need to be distributed to families through our local partners.  Our goal is that these kits will help parents and their kids see that they already interact with STEM in their day-to-day lives and make science and math less intimidating.

Are you interested in helping with our STEM kits or other projects that can benefit your local community? Whether it be by yourself or with a group, we offer many opportunities to get involved with your community through Hands on Greater Portland has multiple opportunities for you to jump in and help! Learn more and sign up here: https://www.handsonportland.org/