February 13, 2014 / Stories From The Settlement / Posted by: Elise Hanks

Roots that Stem from the Community

Everyone wants to know what brings Dr. Christina López to Grand St. Settlement. Our 80 Pitt Street Community Center has a new Youth Services Center Director who is getting everybody fired up, though no one is more enthusiastic than Christina herself. As a teen she participated in afterschool and summer programs that served as stepping stones to her future as an educator and youth advocate, and now she has returned to her community equipped to make a lasting impact.

Christina is quick to aver that her accumulation of accomplishments and triumphs (success at an engineering university where she was one of the few women of color in her courses; co-founding a project to create a library in a disadvantaged community in South Africa; being named a Gates Millennium Scholar) could only lead her back to the Lower East Side. “I grew up in the LES in a predominantly low-income community. The schools I attended were under-resourced – even teachers weren’t interested in inspiring learning – and so my lived experiences made me resilient.” Christina credits heavy involvement in summer and afterschool programs that focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives with preparing her for success.

Christina arrives at 80 Pitt Street after a successful foray into the world of educational academia but finds her Ph.D. capable of making more first-hand impact as a member of front-line staff serving the community. Her lived experiences give her personal and critical insight into the glaring disparity between resources for students from low-income backgrounds and their more advantaged peers. “Kids from our neighborhood might not go to the best schools, so it is important that we are here to host afterschool opportunities where we can tell our kids about all the possibilities out in the world.” And indeed, GSS recognizes that knowing about the possibilities is the critical first step in making them a reality – a step that too many kids are missing.

All of Grand St. Settlement’s programs and services focus on showing our neighbors the kinds of possibilities that are the difference between surviving and thriving, living and making a life. All of our funding streams contribute to these efforts, but perhaps no one does it better than the Department of Youth and Child Development (DYCD) and the partners who have engaged with us to bring STEM-learning into our community. Our partnerships with Time Warner Cable and ConEdison have led to support for the launch of an innovative program – The Mini Makers Club. This pilot was initiated in summer of 2013 and thanks to its outstanding success, we have been able to offer all of our kids the chance to build robots, rig circuitry and design LED projects.

Grand St. Settlement is thrilled to be poised for innovation through STEM. With Christina’s expertise and the investment of Time Warner Cable and ConEdison, as well as critical support from DYCD, our next century of service promises the possibility of a whole new way to help our neighbors engineer not just a life, but a future.


Check out photos of our awesome MiniMaker Faire where our kids put STEM learning to work building robots and designing LED projects!

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