Members of the CURE program’s first cohort pose during their recent graduation ceremony. (Courtesy photo)

The first group of young people to participate in the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s long-term STEM program for secondary students celebrated the end of its collective journey with a celebratory graduation ceremony last month.

The 17 students represent the inaugural cohort of the university’s CURE Scholars program, a STEM enrichment initiative that follows such students from sixth grade until high school graduation. It currently works with youth from the West Baltimore schools of Green Street Academy, Franklin Square Elementary Middle School, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, with hopes to expand to KIPP Ujima Village Academy.

The program’s multi-year model and focus on young people in West Baltimore — much of which sits in the “Black butterfly,” which ethnographers use to describe predominantly Black neighborhoods that institutional racism rendered largely segregated and under-resourced — models how universities can create programs that not only address town-and-gown tensions, but also make the STEM talent pipeline more diverse.

“What we tell parents is that CURE is not an after-school program, it’s an investment in your child’s future,” Gia Grier-McGinnis, CURE’s executive director, told