When reviewing our youth statistics from last year we found something surprising – one youth spent way more time with PE than any other. Niyah, an 8th-grader at Funston Elementary, spent 188 hours with PE, participating in 6 programs and field trips. We spoke by phone with Niyah’s mother, Teena Dew, to learn more about her and try to figure out what makes her such a PE superstar. 

PE: Can you tell us a little about Niyah and how she got involved with Project Exploration?

Teena Dew: Niyah’s always liked building things and making things. When she was younger, not only would she learn from school, but she would also learn from me. We would do science projects. For instance, two years ago when it was really cold outside, we did the “Will the water turn to snow?” experiment. And sure enough, it did. She did it over and over and over again. She just loved it. We just kept doing science projects and she’s always been about that.

My daughter has always wanted to be a baker or a chef. I always just thought science was congruent with that, because you need science to know how to supplement things when you are baking. You know, baking is sort of a science, so I always thought that would be good and easy for her to have the two together.

S4S was something that just connected with that. I wanted to get her to know a little bit more about science, because I wanted her to have that as her backup. I know for her it’s all about culinary school, but I want her to make science her Plan A. That way she can pay for her dreams. Like I said, it will coincide with what she’s doing. Whether it’s regular science or technology, it will help because you have to know the computer aspect and business as well.

That’s where S4S came from, building on those blocks as a foundation. Anything that could build on her learning was always good for me.

PE: Where did her interest in baking come from?

TD: You know, she’s been wanting to do that since she was seven-years old.

PE: Is that a big thing in your house? Are you focused on cooking?

TD: I cook. My husband knows how to cook. Her aunty cooks. Her grandmother. Everybody knows how to cook. She just fell in love with baking. She likes making cookies. I would do that with her all the time, making cookies or cupcakes. She just fell in love with it and never let it go

PE: Last year Niyah participated in more programs than any other young person we worked with. How do you explain her dedication to out-of-school programs?

TD: Well, she came to me with all these programs that they had started last year. We went down to the school together and said, “Okay, we’ll try to do a couple.” Make it so that she’s busy all throughout the week.

Because when your kids are busy they’re not out there in the streets doing bad things and getting in trouble. Not only that, but they’re learning way more than they would in class because it’s fun. It’s not homework. You’re having fun with not only your friends, but you have new adults that you’re meeting and they’re actually working in their field. Which is very rare when it comes to kids. So we made out that plan, and said “Okay, you’ll do this, this, this, and this,” and it just became full.

She just loves the whole atmosphere and the aspect of learning more than she ever could in class, because when it’s more fun you learn quicker and you learn in detail.

PE: Do you have any special memories from last year?

TD: Her going down to Motorola Mobility was awesome, she loved it. She loved that they got to sit there and tinker, and make things. She won, I think, “Most Innovative” for that. For her group to come up with that on their own was awesome. I think it was a solar battery phone.

PE: Do you feel like here interest in pursuing science has increased?

TD: A huge amount. She’s in S4S this year, she loves it so much. I think she likes exploring the avenue that science can offer her. And to know that you can also mix that with technology is right up her alley.

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