Brittany Young Bio – Founder and CEO, B-360
American Heart Association Volunteer – STEM Goes Red Initiative
I am Brittany Young, a Baltimore native. I have programmed nuclear plants, developed medical devices, planned satellite explorations, developed food products, been an educator, and college faculty but I find the most satisfaction in problem-solving and service to the community.
As early as prekindergarten, I remember watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV and getting excited about learning experiments and watching things explode. I had plans to be just like him but in school but I would get in trouble for being restless, for making stink bombs, gluing people to chairs and was seen as just a problem student. Yes, I was the kid that had her desk next to the principal and my parents’ number on file to easily pull up.
In third grade, I had my first Black teacher, Ms. Taylor and it was the first time I had anyone in school ask me what I liked to do and wonder why I was always in trouble. She heard me and created a science club allowing me to compete with high school students and kept me interested long enough to know I was going into STEM. Since then I have used my problem-solving brain to solve not only engineering challenges but to create robotics leagues in Baltimore, a pipeline program from Baltimore Community College to STEM careers, science camps, mentor and a lot of other things before starting my own organization.
I am the founder and CEO of B-360, an organization that utilizes dirt bike culture to end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline and build bridges in communities through STEM education, community and safe events. I saw two problems in my community and decided to make one solution; the need for better and more relevant ways to teach STEM and the need for programmatic ways to lessen nonviolent crimes specifically dirt bikes. In 2015, following the uprising of Freddy Gray, Associated Black Charities published a report showing Baltimore had more than 120,000 mid-level stem careers that did not require a four-year degree to move communities out of poverty. I know if STEM is taught by telling someone to read a book instead of how it already relates to his or her everyday life, these careers can seem unattainable. Following the uprising, Baltimore also decided to create a Dirt Bike Police Task force to uphold the law which criminalizes riders for possession of bikes and riding. I agreed that people should be out of traffic but also wanted there to be programming and positive reinforcement to get to the same outcome and allowing choices. In Baltimore dirt bike riding is seen as a sport, a part of our culture as young Black kids and I remembered being the kid watching the riders do the stunts and seeing them fix and repair their bikes. This is what I gravitated toward in creating B-360 – a STEM education program rich in culture that hires former street riders to teach the engineering design process, mechanics of dirt bikes, riding safety and allowing recreation in safe spaces. We also work with cities to create diversion programs, advocate for safe spaces, and to safely showcase the style of riding to draw cities and riders earned revenue.
Since launching in 2017, the organization has served more than 7,000 students, hired 32 dirt bike riders and worked to shift the culture. In 2019 we hosted three events in Texas, Baltimore and Atlanta to safely showcase the riding style, and have hosted other cities now interested in creating spaces for riders. The work has been featured places like The Baltimore Sun, CBS, Forbes, Teen Vogue, ESPN, NBC Sports, AfroPunk, Broccoli City, American Motorcyclist Association and more.
I’m a part of networks like Baltimore Corps Elevation Awards, The Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins, Redbull, Echoing Green, OSI Baltimore, Camelback, Black Girl Ventures, Baltimore 40 Under 40, TED Fellows and of course the American Heart Association. The American Heart Association Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator allowed me to look at how the work we do at B-360 addresses the five SDOH and how to grow our impact.
Like many people, we think of social determinants (economic stability, education, environment, community and health care) but sometimes overlook the root cause of these factors to include race and racism. For me and those I serve, this factor has been undeniable. Reflecting, in elementary school I was chastised because I was bored in class but only seen as a nuisance, my first STEM job I was confused for an administrative assistant and my youngest brother was incarcerated and convicted as an adult for a nonviolent offense at the young age of 16. Who I am of course gives me a lot of strength and my experiences have added to my wisdom, but these same experiences have made me mature faster mentally and emotionally, experience more loss and grief, and resulted in a battle which society waged centuries before my existences that I did not choose and cannot escape from.
In the current and perpetual climate these battles take form through COVID19 and the most recent uprisings surging throughout the country. Systematic inequalities and SDOH have left my business shut out from PPP Loans and relief grants resulting in loss of programming and jobs to those we serve. COVID19 in every city/state has disproportionately killed more black people which reveals in real-time how SDOH works. Then constant reminders about the fragility of my black life are displayed nationally through the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddy Gray, Eric Gardner, Sandra Bland and many more before and to come. I also have to face a stark reality that no matter how much programming I do, no matter how much impact me or my organization makes, the reality is – me, one of my students, one of the riders, my brother, my sister or a friend could be the next hashtag. Like my parents did and theirs before them, I will have to prepare my future child for the role race plays in society, give lessons not taught in history books and pray the time never comes when I get a phone call about a routine traffic stop, or that first broken-hearted instance when someone will call him or her a slanderous name.
All of these things keep me up at night but I am continuously reassured that through the adversity I can and will move the needle even if its just a bit in my lifetime and provide some relief to students who were like me bored in school wishing somebody would listen to them. Additional comfort will come when allies reading this choose not to be silent in either instance and shift the burden and blame from me carrying it, to the root cause – racism. There will come a new norm with an unprecedented reality where equity is displayed in education, healthcare, and communities. There will be more companies with executive leadership who look like me, teachers embracing the culture of the students they educate, funds and loans providing bail out to more black led organizations, and solutions based on programming with community members at the table.
B-360 allows me to create a solution to address SDOH through programming, real-time solutions and empowerment. My hope is that racism and systemic inequality can continue to be acknowledged especially now as a root cause of social determinants of health and that I can use my lived and learned experiences to help reimagine city planning, government best practices, provide a model for culturally relevant programming and curriculum.I want more solutions to come from the people directly affected by the problem, for our skill sets to be utilized and paid for as frameworks and assets toward building better community and to continue to empower more people like me. I now see myself as a “socio-economic” engineer – connecting talent and passion with resources and opportunity by cultivating the skill that was already there.
For more information about American Heart Association STEM Goes Red visit: www.baltimoremdgoredluncheon.heart.org or email Go Red for Women Director, Caroline Hickam (Caroline.Hickam@heart.org)
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.|