Houston nonprofit brings STEM resources to underserved homeschooling communities

When Rosa Aristy asked a group of homeschool students what they wanted to study in the next year, their collective answer – computer coding and robotics – shocked her and other adults…

When Rosa Aristy asked a group of homeschool students what they wanted to study in the next year, their collective answer – computer coding and robotics – shocked her and other adults present. 

“I remember how some moms and I looked at each other, as if asking, ‘Who’s going to teach those classes?’” she said, recalling how none of them had any expertise or background in those topics. 

But the students’ enthusiasm inspired her to action. 

“It touched my heart,” she said. “When I see children who are curious and hungry to learn, I want to feed them. That’s one of the reasons why I homeschool.”

Today Aristy’s Bridges to Science (B2S) nonprofit provides STEM resources to homeschoolers in Houston, including those in underserved communities. 

“We started serving homeschooling families from only six different zip codes in west Houston,” she said of their humble beginnings. “Now we’re serving families from over 90 zip codes throughout the whole city.” 

From the Dominican Republic to Texas 

Aristy came from a family who championed learning across a range of subjects. Her father, an attorney in the Dominican Republic and “voracious reader,” would assign classical books for his children to read when school had ended. 

Later the family would discuss the books together on the front porch of Aristy’s childhood home. 

Aristy’s mother, a high school math teacher, also encouraged learning as a year-round practice that never stopped, even during school vacations. 

Their home provided a place for her mother’s students to come for extracurricular activities such as a math club, hosted by Aristy’s brother. 

“My mom’s students would come over,” she said. “They had fun just meeting out on the porch and working problems on a chalk board.” 

After Aristy moved to the United States and married, she chose to homeschool her own children. In 2018 she formed her own club, the Katy Math Circle.  

Using her background in data science, she taught math and reached out to local universities, inviting professors to present hands-on and project-oriented coursework to the students. 

Help from HSLDA 

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the ensuing economic decline affected Aristy’s B2S nonprofit, which had launched in February that year. 

Some families couldn’t afford the nonprofit’s fee it needed to charge, and many students in Spanish-speaking families had limited or no access to resources in science and technology. 

“The role of Bridges to Science,” Aristy said, “is really to inspire students, to give them access to STEAM programs they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and to make it fun. I think we can spark a fire.” 

When Aristy joined a Facebook live event hosted by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), one of the association’s staff members, Karim Morato, reached out to her to learn more about her nonprofit. 

“It was supposed to be a half-hour call, and it ended up going two hours,” said Morato, the association’s bilingual educational consultant and Hispanic outreach coordinator. 

Through HSLDA, Aristy applied for grants through the VELA Education Fund. The awarded grant provided B2S with the ability to offer tuition scholarships to deserving students.  

It also allowed the nonprofit to purchase supplies and offer prizes such as origami kits to students participating in program activities. 

“Rosa is trying to cover an area where there’s a huge gap, especially among Hispanics,” Morato said. “She has positioned herself in a really great way to connect these families with higher education. For me, to find a Hispanic mom who has this vision, and who is reaching out—I thought, what a unique opportunity! What can we do to empower this?” 

Applying STEM to music, wildlife, and law 

The benefits of a STEM-centric education have already begun to manifest in the lives of students participating in Aristy’s nonprofit. 

Samuel Worley, a 17-year-old who plans to attend Houston University in the fall, credited B2S with developing his passion for programming and digital music compositions. 

“It’s a culture where everyone is uplifting all the time,” he said. “If there is any concept you don’t understand, there’s always someone who will explain it, and they’ll explain it lovingly.” 

Worley has used his time homeschooling to pursue multiple interests, including piano playing, guitar building, and creating 3D animations for his digitally composed songs, which he uploads to his YouTube channel. 

“I’ve been able to pretty much just pick whatever I want to learn in a given time,” he said.  

Another student, Jeremiah Green, has a passion for wildlife and plans to study marine biology at Texas A&M University. 

“He can hold and touch all sorts of animals, and they stay with him,” said his mother, Tara Green. “If you ever see a show that’s called ‘The Animal Whisperer with Jeremiah Green,’ then you know who it is.” 

Jeremiah heard about B2S through the Katy Math Circle, which helped him find “fun ways to do math and geometry” and taught him how to teach others, including his three younger siblings at home. 

“I’ve been able to do more of the work I like to do, like geography and languages,” he said. “I also have more flexibility to go fishing and camping.” 

Another student, Chad Velez, 16, has found B2S helpful for developing skills he’ll need to become a lawyer. 

“Law involves a lot of logic and rhetoric, and I learned a lot of this through STEM by solving problems,” he said. 

Velez also credits homeschooling for fueling his interest in U.S. history. He has toured the home of one of the Founders, Patrick Henry, who said, “Give me liberty or give me death” in a 1775 address at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. 

“I probably wouldn’t have discovered my passion for history and politics if it wasn’t for homeschooling,” he said. 

STEM fiesta 

Meanwhile, B2S continues to expand and celebrated its fourth anniversary at the end of February this year. 

Aristy planned the nonprofit’s first science festival, or “STEM fiesta,” in 2023 as a celebration of both homeschooling and Hispanic culture. 

More than 400 people attended the festival, which included family-friendly science activities, a STEM career panel, Hispanic food, and workshops.  

The Houston Museum of Natural Science and Texas A&M University also participated in the festival as exhibitors. 

“I always tell my students: You all need to pay it forward and be ambassadors for learning,” Aristy said. “We’re getting there, and it’s exciting.”