100 Black Men of OC Has New Rocket Program
By Dianne Anderson
Forget about sleeping late on Saturdays, the boys of 100 Black Men of Orange County wake up hours ahead of time to trek as far away as Los Angeles and Temecula to catch up around some of the highest powered careers on the planet, and beyond.
But it’s the heart of the program, the professors, the lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, and rocket scientists who supply the energy that keeps the young brothers on track to a better life.
As part of their newest STEM partnership, students in the program can now earn certification in rockets, and learn more about sub-orbital space flight. That project, run by two volunteer engineers from Blue Origin, kicked off earlier this month for 11th and 12th graders.
“One volunteer is a pretty high-level engineer, they build real rockets, equipment that people are flying in outer space. The work with Blue Origin and the rocketry program [includes] a certification that they can put on their resume,” said Orlando Guillory with the nonprofit, 100 Black Men of Orange County.
It’s a true science class, and he said the students are learning a lot about physics and chemistry.
“I’m a chemical engineer myself, and I’m like this is pretty amazing,” he said.
In honor of MLK Day, the boys are also participating in one of the chapter’s foundational tenets, giving back in community service and packing food with the county Community Action Partnership.
“Of course, we all wish we had a program like that when we were kids but we didn’t. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to positively impact their lives and show them their options and also help them to deal with daily life,” he said.
As part of the 100 BMOC curriculum, the organization features two programs, one initially started under past president Dr. Thomas Parham, which has since expanded to middle school. The high school program now offers three different STEM classes, including digital animation, microprocessors and computer programming, and the rocketry program.
Altogether, about 115 students are registered in the program, and there is a waiting list because the interest has been great. He is encouraging students to sign up in case there are any open seats.
In keeping with the goals of the national 100 Black Men of America, the local chapter provides scholarships for students who graduate from their Passport Program. Youth access mentors, guidance with education, health and wellness, tools for economic empowerment, and leadership development.
This month is an important time marker to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day, but the organization is intentional about covering Black history year-round. He said they drive home the importance that students understand they create their own history every day.
“We talk about Emmett Till, and how that initiated a lot of the activities in civil rights. We also work with different sponsors, Disney this year is sponsoring our rocketry program, and they sponsored a preview of Wakanda Forever. They have a leadership program that we’re getting our students involved with,” he said.
He said the program has received good support from Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine on a summer externship for up to eight students who worked part-time to learn about medical device companies.
The students also participate in finance and various areas of business, and marketing tools, but the organization goes above and beyond to support the boys in other ways.
Many Black students in predominantly conservative Orange County are dealing with racial problems at their schools, middle and high schools.
He commends Dereck Moore, the 100 BMOC President and “Chief Difference Maker” for keeping closer tabs on school districts, and opening communication between parents and the administration to address the inequities. He said that they are partnering with schools to improve or mitigate situations, or determine if the administration is able to see that the problem exists.
Some students have had to take legal action.
“This is what MLK stood for, the things that we’re up against, and how to instill this sense within the boys [because] the world has been so down on Black men. You have a right to be here and also to excel at your education, to contribute the best of yourself to the world,” he said.
For more information or to support the program, see http://www.100bmoc.org/