The Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine is taking part in its 10th Black History Month Art Contest, this year featuring Black leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.

“The kids get to see themselves in avenues and professions that you don’t get to see very often,” said Anthony Martin, program coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine. It’s an opportunity for “kids to see themselves through representation in careers and ideals and everyday activities that they want to be involved in.”

A drawing depicting astronaut Mae Jemison is part of this year’s contest. Contributed / Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine

The club has selected 10 pieces of its members’ art for the contest, which is sponsored annually by USCellular. The artwork is posted online through Feb. 15, and the top three vote-getters will win prizes. The artwork includes depictions of Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls who Code; Samuel Ramsey, an entomologist, researcher and activist; and Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut and engineer.

A majority of the Boys and Girls Club members in Portland and South Portland are people of color, according to Deirdre Clifford, director of donor engagement and marketing.

About 25 kids eagerly participated this year, Martin said.

“USCellular provides a list of Black STEM leaders, so the kids get to go through each one and decide what art piece they want to make,” he said. Before starting on the artwork, however, the kids “learn about the person they’re creating for.”


The learning portion gets kids excited about the people they’re depicting, Clifford said.

Member Sasha Sylvestre decided on Valerie Thomas as her subject. Among other scientific accomplishments, Thomas invented a way to transmit holograms while she was working for NASA.

“I remember seeing her picture and thinking, that looks like a real responsible lady. It was cool to see someone who looks like me making stuff and inventing something that no one else has before,” Sasha said.

“It’s important in general, whether or not there’s a contest, for kids to explore their history and history in general,” Martin said. “It’s important for kids to walk into their environment and see leaders as an example of what they can be and what they aspire to be.”

In 2021, according to the Pew Research Center, Black people made up about 14% of the U.S. population but were represented in only about 9% of STEM jobs.

The top three young artists to receive the most votes will be announced in late February, and will receive gift cards in the amounts of $250, $150 and $100, based on ranking.

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