JerJuan Green helps youth go full S.T.E.A.M. ahead at the Virginia M. Leonard Education Center

JerJuan S.T.E.A.M.

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – JerJuan Green was busy.

Not just because it was the second day of the Virginia M. Leonard’s Community Education Center (VMLCEC) 2018 Summer Camp session — which means he’s juggling t-shirt orders, greeting parents, completing enrollment forms with staff and alternately thanking campers for being excellent role models and gently admonishing others who have fallen out of line.

Green is busy because, in addition to being VMLCEC’s director, his commitment to the community has seen him at the helm of encouraging voter participation among African Americans in Pinellas, supporting young entrepreneurs and business people, fostering youth citizenship and civic responsibility and coaching brilliant young minds to victory as statewide Brain Bowl champions.

Green is also busy with exposing the youth to S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).

“S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M is the way of the future, everything is going to be involved in that,” asserted Green. “So, we most definitely have to start exposing our kids to that now so they’ll, number one, know that it’s out there, and number two, gain an interest and try to get into that field.”

Green attributes his success to being told by someone at a young age that he was good in math, which encouraged him to consider that as a path after high school.

After graduating from The Boca Ciega High School, he spent four years as an infantryman in the army. He then completed degrees at St. Petersburg College and Florida A&M in electrical engineering.

His graduation from FAMU ushered in the young engineer’s dream job, a chance to work at the Kennedy Space Center.

“I was so excited to be out there,” said Green who grew up in the Childs Park area. “Being able to work my way up and actually be at Kennedy Space Center. It felt really great.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity was short-lived. When President Obama downsized the NASA space program, and the private sector took it over, Green was laid off.

“I tell people all the time I understand why he did it; I just didn’t like how it affected me.”

He came back to St. Pete and returned to his home church, Christ Gospel. He joined the church’s Wednesday tutoring program, and with his math skillset and down-to-earth affability, within a couple of months had such a huge following that word reached to the top.

Senior pastor Bishop Preston Leonard came to Green with a life-changing idea about the empty city-owned building across from the church. He wanted to hand over the building with the stipulation that Green turns it into an education center.

“It scared the crap out of me,” said Green, who thought he’d be back in the aeronautical field in no time. “Never thought that this was something that I’d be doing long-term.”

But after prayer, counsel and considering the possibilities, Green decided to take on the challenge. They named the building and center after the bishop’s late wife, and the doors opened.

Grant support from the Juvenile Welfare Board encouraged growth. Beginning to see the fruits of his labor, Green set about engaging in community service organizations and events that he could tie to his work as an educator.

He became the president of the Pinellas County Urban League’s Young Professional, and now the group’s community-based events encouraged STEAM activities and events for youngsters. As board chair for the MLK Day of Service, he helped to develop the Student Ambassadors project that helps satisfy student’s volunteer requirements for high school.

As a math coach for St. Petersburg College’s Brain Bowl, his 11th and 12th-grade team placed second in the state, and every member of his group of five received college scholarships through the program.

This summer, some of Green’s young scholars will be participating in Duke Energy’s Youth Energy Academy. The youth will spend two days at the Duke Energy plant on Weedon Island where they will learn everything from how electricity is developed from the plant to how it reaches homes as well as other forms of energy such as wind and water.

A recent graduate of the Leadership St. Pete program, Green is eager to see the VMLCEC grow and believes the center can empower even more youth with the skills necessary to be prepared for a technology-based world. And like any nonprofit, the center is always in need of funds for equipment and teaching tools.

He’d also like to see more of the community take advantage of the free academic program the center offers all year long, noting that the attendance during the school year dips dramatically.

“I hear, ‘You’re one of the best secrets in the city with everything you’re doing,’” mentioned Green. “I kind of like it that way because I like our reputation to precede us…but I’m learning that to get that recognition and assistance, we have to advertise and put what we’re doing in the program — and the services that we provide — out there.”

For more information on how you can become involved in the VMLCEC, call (727) 327-0999 or email vml.educenter@gmail.com.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com.

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