South LA tech mentor contender for national STEM award

Daphne Bradford invites Mayor Eric Garcetti to watch her students tackle coding projects. | Willa Seidenberg

Daphne Bradford invites Mayor Eric Garcetti to watch her students tackle coding projects at the “Coding with STEAM” event held at Dorsey High in July 2014. | Willa Seidenberg

The nationally acclaimed founder and president of a South L.A. tech-education nonprofit, Daphne Bradford, was nominated this fall for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The White House Office of Science and Technology and the National Science Foundation gives this award to organizations and individuals who have shown outstanding leadership with aspiring scientists and engineers from underrepresented communities.

Bradford will be competing against college level professors for this award; her students are high schoolers. The teacher said she feels younger students have not had enough exposure to science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) in their schools’ curricula. Her program, Mother of Many, which offers digital media skills for students at Dorsey and Crenshaw high schools, aims to bridge this teaching gap.

“I think the problem with STEM is getting kids prepared to embark on college and careers in computer science or robotics — or any type of technology focus,” Bradford said.

The National Science Foundation informed her about the nomination in October, and is waiting for The White House to announce winners over the coming months. According to Maria Zacharias, the Senior Public Affairs Specialist for the National Science Foundation, the nominations for college mentors and high school mentors total between 125 and 150 in any given year. Nominees must have spent at least five years mentoring minorities and disadvantaged communities.

Daphne Bradford's students at Dorsey High, July 2014. | Willa Seidenberg

Daphne Bradford’s students at Dorsey High, July 2014. | Willa Seidenberg

Bradford received letters of recommendations from Mayor Eric Garcetti, a representative of the Beyond the Bell program, a teacher from Dorsey High School, and a student that she mentored. This young man now attends UCLA and studies physics. Applying for the Presidential Award is a joint effort between nominees and their recommenders.

“They encourage you to go after your strongest recommenders, the people that you work with,” said Bradford. “Anytime you get a recommendation from the mayor, that’s always good.”

In the past, Bradford has worked for Mayor Garcetti in his Summer of Learning project. And Dorsey High School students have the opportunity to take a computer science course taught by Bradford — ninth graders take an introductory computer science class and tenth graders take an Advanced Placement computer science class.

Other school in the Los Angeles Unified School District has benefitted from Bradford’s expertise in science and technology. She also teaches a botanical engineering program at Crenshaw High School. In 2007, Bradford created the first Apple Certified Training Center for Education in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Locke High School.

The award will be granted to seven individuals and organizations, according to Zacharias.

“Awardees receive a citation signed by the President of the United States, a paid trip for two to Washington D.C. to attend a recognition ceremony, and a $10,000 honorary award,” she said.

To learn more about Daphne Bradford, visit

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