Eight graduating seniors from Frederick Douglass High School’s first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) cohort were honored at Sea Salt Seafood Lounge, the only Black-owned restaurant in Virginia-Highlands.

The students, including valedictorian Raymond Bell, were hosted by Sea Salt Cares, a nonprofit founded in 2021 by Sea Salt’s owner, Juan Farmer, and former Atlanta Police Department officer Karl Smith.

The scholars all attend the STEAM Academy, which is housed within Douglass High. The program is focused on developing students skills in all five of the STEAM components.

As freshmen, all of the STEAM scholars took advanced placement (AP) computer science classes, taught by a visiting professor from Georgia Tech.

Douglass High’s STEAM Coordinator, Dr. Sakai Franklin-Jones, spoke to The Atlanta Voice about how proud she is to graduate her first cohort of students.

“I’ve pushed them,” said Franklin-Jones. “But today is decision day, so we’re celebrating.”

The dinner served as an opportunity to celebrate the students, and to give them the opportunity to hear from two prominent Black professionals currently working in STEAM: Dr. Nashlie Sephus, an applied scientist who works on artificial intelligence at Amazon, and Dr. Rashad Sanford, a chiropractor.

Sephus spoke to the students about her journey into the STEM field. In 2013 the technology her company built was bought by, and incorporated into the Amazon app as the ‘scan products’ feature.

She continued to highlight the importance of remembering to give back to the community after becoming successful in the tech field.

“My whole mission in life is to say, how do I give back to my people?” Sephus said.

She went on to tell the students about the work she does in her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi. With the capital from the Amazon acquisition, Sephus purchased 14 acres of land in downtown Jackson to create the city’s first tech district, in addition to the nonprofit work she does in the city.

Madeline Thigpen is an education reporter and Report for America Corps Member. She joined the Atlanta Voice in 2021. At the Voice she covers K-12 education for the Atlanta metro region and higher education....