Local doctor's media company aims to build diversity in STEM careers

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Posted at 1:18 PM, Oct 18, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A local doctor's media company is working to introduce STEM fields to children in minority and underserved communities.

Dr. Jose Morey, a physician who lives in Newport News, founded Ad Astra Media in 2019.

Morey, who spoke to News 3 on the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the U.S. mainland at a young age.

He went to medical school and became a doctor, but wasn't done with his education yet, continuing school for analytics and computer science. Morey says he eventually went on to work for IBM and with NASA, the United Nations and other organizations.

“Oftentimes in these roles, I’d be the only person that came from a Hispanic background and sometimes the only person from any minority background whatsoever," he said.

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, minorities, particularly those who are Black and Hispanic, are underrepresented in fields involving science, technology, engineering and math or STEM. Adding art turns the acronym into STEAM.

Morey founded Ad Astra ("To the stars" in Latin) as a way to try and help with specialized content designed for children from underserved populations.

“We want kids to be inspired to shoot for the stars. To see that they can be whatever they want to be, regardless of what they look like, regardless of where they come from," he told News 3.

In just a couple of years, the media company is in five continents and reaching 4.5 million kids, Morey says, with 22 brands of bilingual, STEM-related content.

He says most is for ages 4-11, but the goal is to cover all the way to the career level.

“[STEM] is what’s generating wealth for so many people and if we’re going to elevate societies, these are the types of things we have to keep promoting," Morey tells News 3.

Last Spring, The Williams School in Norfolk partnered with Ad Astra on the "Chopin in Space: Children's Initiative Project." Pam Kitterman's kindergarten class took second in a competition and won cash for her classroom through the project.

But Kitterman says her class took away something even more valuable.

“[It was] great opportunity to find out more about what interested the children individually, gave us jumping off points to talk about other science-related things," she told News 3 of the opportunity to watch a video featuring composer Frederic Chopin's music set to visuals from outer space.

As someone who grew up in a minority community, Morey hopes his company can change the course for generations to come.