Kareem Abdul-Jabbar inspired so many aspiring ballers when he was commanding the basketball court. Now, the former basketball legend is inspiring the young set into entering a different field. With his Skyhook Foundation, Abdul-Jabbar is working to motivate underserved youth and get them to understand that careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries are all within their reach.
"Historically, people of color were discouraged from studying the sciences because the white status quo didn't want the competition for jobs and because they didn't think people of color were intellectually capable," he told the Huffington Post. "Even though that situation technically is no longer the case, the cultural fallout from those days has produced a collateral damage of kids who lack the self-confidence to pursue these courses and careers. That's what we're trying to change."
Not only will an increased interest in STEM fields help the United States compete in a global market when the country has been steadily slipping in the world rankings for science and technology, but it could also lead to successful careers for students. The Skyhook Foundation attempts to fill in the gap by connecting youth with mentors and educational programs that teach children about minority inventors and the impact they've had throughout history.
"STEM has the most potential right now for providing successful careers for the kind of students who might otherwise give up on themselves," Abdul-Jabbar said. "One of the most rewarding aspects of going around to talk about STEM to schools is how many children come up to me afterward and say, 'I never thought of myself as a scientist. But now I'm thinking maybe I could be one.'
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