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Niesha Butler reflects on opening S.T.E.A.M. CHAMPS, which prepares kids for important jobs

Liberty's Niesha Butler reflects on opening Brooklyn education center
Liberty's Niesha Butler reflects on opening Brooklyn education center 02:13

NEW YORK -- You might have seen Niesha Butler scoring points as a professional basketball player for the New York Liberty. Now, she is scoring points for education.

As CBS2's Astrid Martinez reported Monday, Butler is teaching children skills for some of the nation's most important jobs.

Butler is blazing a trail, bringing a bit of Silicon Valley to Brooklyn. She opened the S.T.E.A.M. CHAMPS education center in July. That's "STEM" with an extra "A" for arts -- teaching skills from computer coding to robotics to chess.

"So we are science, technology, engineering, arts and math center. We wanted to include art. A lot of times the kids are on the computer a lot and they don't have a lot of unplugged activities," Butler said.

For this native New Yorker, it's another pivot in an already impressive career that began on the basketball court at Georgia Tech and then the WNBA's Liberty. But the STEM seed was planted when she was 12 and took her first computer science class.

"I really look back to that time because that set the foundation that gave me the confidence that gave me the skill. It was a yearlong class and I realized I was the only female in that class. And, of course, the only person of color in that class," Butler said.

A poll released last year found Black people account for just 9 percent of the STEM workforce, a statistic Butler wants to change. Seven-year-old Theodore Vann is one of her students, though a STEM job is just one of his career goals.

"I want to be a basketball player, soccer player, tennis player, and I want to be a scientist, a pizza chef, and I want to go up to space," Theodore said.

"Did you imagine this would be your afterlife after basketball?" Martinez asked Butler.

"You know what? No, I didn't. I'm actually having a purpose, to make a difference in these kids' lives," Butler said.

A difference that could open young minds to new possibilities and build a pathway to success.

Butler said she believes S.T.E.A.M. CHAMPS is the country's first Afro-Latina-owned educational center specializing in coding and robotics. 

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