SAIS member school The Ron Clark Academy (RCA) in Atlanta is internationally known for its innovative approach, academic excellence, and the leadership opportunities offered to its 4th – 8th grade students. It now has another point of pride in Junior Bernadin, dean of students, IT director, and house system expert, who is the recipient of the nation’s highest STEM mentoring award, the Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

In addition to presenting at the 2021 SAIS Annual Conference, Junior has helped to train educators from around the world to learn better ways to engage students, increase academic rigor, and create a climate and culture for success. Originally from Miami, FL, he has a BA in international affairs from Florida State University and an MS in IT management from Regis University.

In addition to serving as dean of students and IT director, Junior also leads and empowers students by:

  • serving as one of the mentors and coaches of the RCA FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Robotics Team;
  • organizing multiple STEM camps and activities;
  • implementing and serving as the mentor for the RCA Jr. Tech Engineer’s Program;
  • coaching the four-time National Champion RCA Step Team; and
  • advising the five-time National Champion MATHCOUNTS Math Video Challenge Team. 

Junior’s students have designed apps with other students worldwide as part of a compassion-based engineering project called MAD About Mattering. He has worked with MIT Media Labs’ classroom research pilots, focusing on AI tools and teaching methods. Most recently, Junior worked alongside Carnegie Mellon University graduate research students with the Robomechanics Lab workshop, where middle school students from across the nation met virtually to learn about 3D modeling and computer-aided design (CAD) concepts. 

Junior continues to dedicate himself to serving youth and the Atlanta community. He serves on the board of directors for Dance Canvas, a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities and venues to increase the awareness of professional dance prospects in Atlanta. He also serves on the board of directors for Building Future Leaders, whose purpose is to establish dynamic, experiential leadership development curricula targeting a wide range of audiences, including but not limited to high school youth, university students, and professionals. In addition, he is a mentor for the Rites of Passage Academy, a program of 100 Black Men of South Metro Atlanta.

The Presidential Awards for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) recognize those who have made significant contributions to mentoring and thereby support the future productivity of the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, (STEM) workforce. The program was created to identify and recognize individuals and organizations that have contributed outstanding efforts in mentoring and have enhanced the participation of individuals (including persons with disabilities) who might not otherwise have considered or had access to opportunities in STEM disciplines and professions. The National Science Foundation (NSF) administers the awards program on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Congratulations, Junior! Thank you for pouring your heart into your students and leading with excitement and passion every day.