A Student with a Dream + UNCF = A Future Engineer

As a stand-out student at Newark’s St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Othman Muhammad had an aspiration: to go to college and study to become an engineer. And today’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce badly needs high-performing students of color like Muhammad. African Americans and other underrepresented minorities today represent five percent or less of the students graduating with undergraduate and advanced degrees across all STEM disciplines and are just five percent of the national tech workforce.

But although a college education is more important than ever to both job-seeking students and employee-seeking businesses, it is also more expensive.

Othman Muhammad
Othman Muhammad

Fortunately, UNCF had an answer for Muhammad: the Fund II Foundation/UNCF STEM Scholars Program, a five-year, $48 million program that annually awards 100 top-performing high school seniors from across the nation a total package of up to $25,000 over five years, including scholarships to the college of their choice, mentoring and a stipend for STEM internships to help prepare them for the tech workforce. Now a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Il, Muhammad is one of six New Jersey students to be selected for the UNCF Fund II scholarships.

“Recently, I finished my first quarter at Northwestern, and I am elated to say that I performed above my expectations going in,” said Muhammad. “However, the UNCF STEM community taught me that my initial performance is only the beginning, and I intend on bettering my academic successes throughout my time at Northwestern,” Muhammad said during a visit home.

With a workforce rapidly trending “majority-minority”—a majority of workers of color—the supply of African American STEM professionals must increase to meet the economy’s growing needs. Thanks to the Fund II Foundation/UNCF STEM Scholars Program, the economy is on its way to meeting its need and Othman Muhammad is well on his way to making his dream a reality.