#BWHM Magic Maker: STEM Savant Tonee Lawson’s ‘The Be. Org’ Empowers Charm City Children With Skills To Succeed

Posted by on Apr 16, 2024 in News | 0 comments

For Black Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting Magic Makers who are leaving indelible marks in entrepreneurship, entertainment, and education, and we think Tonee Lawson is a perfect fit.

Tonee Lawson

Source: The Be. Org / Courtesy

The Baltimore-based Executive Director is the visionary behind The Be. Org, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children of color in Charm City. Empowered with a mission to make a difference, Tonee and her team recently held three days of events showcasing the organization’s achievements, supporters, and the stories of the youth it has touched.

According to the changemaker, it’s all in a day’s work because her passion for developing local students’ soft skills and life skills through a “Tech Con” and girls’ empowerment academy is yielding a decade’s worth of results in a city where some disenchanted youth feel forgotten.

BOSSIP recently chatted with Tonee Lawson about The Be.Org’s origin, the nonprofit’s dedication to Baltimore’s youth, and its recent Sneaker Ball fundraiser.

As we continue highlighting sistas slaying in their respective fields throughout April, see our chat with this Magic Maker below.

–Dani Canada

BOSSIP: When did you realize there was a need for The Be.Org?

We are celebrating our ten-year anniversary this year and we are coming off the heels of our annual Sneaker Ball gala, which was the highlight of our ten-year celebration. And so back in the day, 10 years ago, I was doing some community service work with my sorority because I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated with the Emerging Young Leaders Initiative and that was the middle school leadership program for girls. So I led that initiative for 120 girls at a local public boarding school here in Baltimore. And because I did such a great job, the sorors were raving about it. Everyone supported, and the school community, the local community, it was just an amazing successful initiative. They told me like, “You need to start a nonprofit.” And I was like, this is not really a part of my plan. But I always pay heed to conversations when people see something in me that I may not necessarily see in myself. So I listened and I did. And so at that time I also had a conversation with a young lady who was struggling with the transition to middle school. And long story short, she wanted to be an actress, but she said, no one from Baltimore ever makes it.

And my heart broke for her because living in Baltimore, it can be really hard for our young people with traumatic experiences. And just the city is just so hard that young people often feel unworthy of success, or can’t see the possibilities of success outside of the four corners of their neighborhoods because of all the challenges that the city faces. So that is kind of how we started 10 years ago.

I imagine it’s grown immensely within 10 years, tell me about all the ways The Be. Org has expanded. 

Yes. We are currently in two jurisdictions; Baltimore City and Baltimore County. We have events that support the central Maryland region, and we have served over 3000 students to date. And we are in 11 schools right now, with five signature programs. So our work falls into three main areas; STEM, social and emotional learning, and college and career readiness. And so our goal as an organization is to really help our young people develop the essential life skills, like leadership, communication, working with your peers, all of those skills, and pair it with their technical skills like science and math, and help them create a pathway for success for life after high school, whatever that may look like for them, whether it’s directly to the workforce or to an institution of higher learning.

 We talk a lot about STEM these days, but I don’t know if people really know what kind of careers are in STEM. What are some careers that some of your students go on to take on after your program?

So actually this year we’ll have our first college graduate. That is a big celebration. And we are seeing our students major in different things. So they major in theater. We have some students who want to pursue communications through a tech lens. So we know that digital marketing, communications, and videography, all of those things are still tech, but just through a different lens, just a communications channel. So some of our students are into that. Some of them want to go on and do the actual game development and gaming and coding that we teach in our program.

Some of them are in cyber security now. Some of them are in STEM education now, or personal careers in STEM education or majors in STEM education. Some of our college students actually come back and support our current students. So through the Mayor’s Office of Employee Development, we’ve been able to partner with their YouthWorks program where they are able to learn while they earn. So their job is to come to programming and they earn a stipend. And so that program goes up to age 24, the opportunity youth age. And so those students that are in college are able to earn money and come back and serve as near-peer mentors to our current high school students.

Looking back over the 10 years that you’ve been leading this organization, what has been the most rewarding? 

I think right now I’m seeing the amount of students that we have enrolled in college and the ones that are getting ready to graduate now. That’s probably the biggest full-circle moment that’s playing out in real-time. And so we are excited to continue that and to continue to help more students get enrolled in college, especially our students that have been with us for years. So just to see them grow through middle and high school and on to college is really exciting and rewarding.

You previously mentioned the Sneaker Ball fundraiser to raise money for your students. How did that go?

It went really well! The numbers are not finished coming in yet. We still have pledges and donations rolling through the end of the week, so I don’t have a number on it just yet, but at last check, we were up to about $75,000.

And that’s largely in part to the support of our sponsors and just we welcome over 350 guests into the building. So it was a successful effort that really celebrates sneaker culture, which people love and can get behind, paired with STEM and social-emotional learning, but most importantly, Baltimore Community Impact.


April is Black Women’s History Month. So we’re highlighting Black women who are doing some amazing things, and we want you to be one of them. So with that, we’d like to ask; what does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

I would say Black Girl Magic is a mix of resilience, creativity, and poise. That is what Black Girl Magic is to me.



Source: bossip