She was already an Information Technology (IT) professor at Middlesex Community College as well as a counseling pastor. But Donna Hylton, inspired by Harriet Tubman (who was born into slavery and subsequently became an abolitionist using the Underground Railroad to rescue enslaved people), felt the tug of another calling which she described to 57 Y’s Men of Meriden on March 26.
Speaking without notes, the engaging and enthusiastic Hylton noted the virtual absence of IT graduates by people of color, especially women. This led her to approach the administration and successfully request a six-month sabbatical in 2017 to create a special one-week STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) camp for 90 mostly black preschool-6th grade students. These “campers” were soon immersed in robotics, solar energy, math fundamentals and a visit to an engineering museum.
During this same time frame, 20 teenagers attended a two-week mobile application development camp where they were immersed in technology. And five adults signed on for a three-month intense course in website design, learning the workings of html, CSS and WordPress programming. Indeed, one of these women was selected for a web development apprentice job and today remains employed in this field.
In January 2018, “STEAM Train” was incorporated as a non-profit organization, with Hylton as Founder, Board Chairman and President, and today supported by 11 Board members, an administrative assistant and several Wesleyan students. With Connecticut currently challenged by 37,000 unfilled IT positions, the future seems bright for individuals entering this field. Fortunately, the programs created in 2017 were repeated in 2018 (with several more adults continuing to careers with local companies) and will repeat again this year.
Today, another new program titled ‘STEAMBOUND,’ a seven-week program arising from a collaboration between STEAM Train and Upward Bound, provides training primarily for non-white students in website design, InDesign desktop publishing, Access database management, Photoshop graphics editing, and other digital skills. And a partnership with Meriden and Middletown Public Schools will provide both summer and after-hours programs. As Hylton noted, “this train just keeps on moving.”
Retired or semi-retired men from Meriden or surrounding communities, interested in attending a Y’s Men of Meriden meeting, are invited to call 203-238-7784 or visit the www.ysmenofmeriden.com website.