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NEWS | June 20, 2011

Paul Charles Recognized for Fostering STEM Education, Diversity

By Donna McKinney

A Naval Research Laboratory research chemist was recognized June 15 for his efforts to promote science and technology to minority youth.

Paul Charles was recognized during the 2011 Naval STEM Forum being held in Alexandria, Va. The forum has gathered more than 600 leaders in academia, business and the government to collaborate on ways to address U.S. students' declining interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

According to Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, the Navy's chief of naval research, the STEM forum was a fitting platform to salute Charles.

Paul has played a critical role in increasing the visibility of minority scientists and encouraging minority students to pursue careers in STEM, said Carr, who presented Charles with the 2011 Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Award. We are recognizing his leadership of NRL's summer internship program for students from under-represented communities. He is a role model to fellow researchers and to inner-city students.

The Office of Naval Research is NRL's parent organization.

ONR bestows the Gravely award to the Champion of the Year for Excellence in STEM Education and Diversity for excellence in fostering STEM education and diversity growth to sustain and expand future generations of students in the Naval Research Enterprise science and technology workforce.

Gravely was the first African-American to command a U.S. Navy warship, an American warship under combat conditions and a major naval warship. He also was the first African-American admiral, vice admiral and U.S. Fleet commander. In 2009, the Navy christened an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in his name.

Gravely's efforts to promote diversity and STEM education and to expand the Naval Research Enterprise science and technology workforce exemplified the type of leader he was, Charles said. It's thrilling to know that I can continue his legacy and beliefs with the HBCU/MI program. I take pride in trying to provide the same opportunities to our youth so they, too, can follow in Gravely's footsteps one day and be a 'first.'

Charles oversees NRL summer internship program's Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions/Tribal Colleges and Universities component, including strategic planning, recruitment and budget activities. To date, the program has provided training opportunities and role models for more than 200 students considering careers in STEM-related areas.

As a nation, we have proven ourselves worldwide to be leaders in the [science and technology] field, however, we must continue to strengthen our workforce by mentoring our youth, Charles said. Brilliant ideas can resonate from all minds, regardless of race, color or gender. By investing in our youth today, we can remain as leaders in exploratory science and advanced technological development that is essential for the future of the Navy and Marine Corps.

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