Ptolemy Henson, a junior at Lawrence North High School, was recently selected as one of the recipients of the 2019 Power of Children Award, which is awarded to youth who see a need in their communities and do something positive to meet that need. 

Henson is also an aspiring software engineer who codes in six different programming languages. He loves Science, Technology Engineering, and Technology (STEM) education, and decided three years ago to open his own STEM nonprofit organization. Ptolemy named it ELHAS — Every Leaf Has a STEM.

Through this organization, Henson has provided weekly STEM activities for children within Lawrence Township on a weekly basis at three Lawrence elementary schools and three Early Learning Centers. He has been doing this since August 2016. 

Through his nonprofit, he has also been able to reach more than 500 kids through the sponsorship of one of their robotics teams, offered a summer camp activity and participated in STEM night events throughout the Lawrence school district. 

Henson says he has enjoyed going to school at Lawrence North.

“I graduate in 2021,” Henson says. “My favorite part of school, though, is going to the McKenzie Career Center. I get to work on computers there. At McKenzie, I have completed my A-plus, and Network-plus certifications. This year, I am excited to take Cybersecurity, in addition to more programming classes. I am also a programmer on the robotics team at McKenzie.”

Power of Children Award

Henson is excited about winning the Power of Children Award.

“The Power of Children Award (POCA) is presented by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis,” Henson says. “On November 15th, 2019,  from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the 15th annual awards event will be held. The award includes a $2,000 grant to contribute to my project. I will also be eligible for a partial university scholarship to Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), University of Indianapolis or Butler University.”

Henson’s interest in STEM started when he was younger. 

“My mom was always taking me to STEM camps around Indianapolis,” Henson says. “I noticed that these camps had to be paid for. I began to wonder how all students could have access to STEM activities without paying a high price for them. I saw the need to distribute STEM education to my community, so I decided to start running STEM clubs and summer activities (at Lawrence schools) to help.”

Henson plans on studying Software Engineering in college.

“I can program well in six different programming languages, including Java, Javascript, Python, HTML, CSS and Ruby,” he says. “I got hooked on programming from playing Minecraft. This was how I learned my first programming language, which was Java. I then started taking online courses to learn the rest. I just learned Ruby this summer. I still want to learn more programming languages and am looking for a programming internship for my senior year in high school.”

Henson adds that he “has been interested in science and math since youth, and I just enjoyed using technology. My dad is a Senior Network Engineer, and we have always had tech around the house since I was a baby. After attending the 2016 POCA ceremony, I was inspired to start my non-profit organization. They encouraged me to use my youth to help others, and I felt this was the perfect way to help others while doing what I love to do.”

Henson adds that the name ELHAS is based on an analogy. 

“Citizens are compared to leaves, and the fact that all leaves have a stem represents how every person can learn about STEM,” Henson says. “This relates to the mission of ELHAS, which is to distribute STEM education to all people at no charge.

“I started at the Mary Castle Early Learning Center (MCELC) in the fall of 2016,” Henson says. “Each week I came up with a different idea to use with the kindergartners to help them get excited about STEM. We used hex bugs, raced balloon rockets, did hands-free finger painting (using magnets) and conducted a snowman investigation.

After that, Hendon was invited by Stephanie LaPlante, Director of Early Childhood Education in Lawrence, to run clubs in three of the Lawrence elementary schools in 2018.

“These schools are Brook Park Elementary, Winding Ridge Elementary and Sunnyside Elementary,” he says. “When I switched to the elementary schools, I started using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum. With this curriculum, we researched topics and experiments with more depth. A few of these were learning about avalanches and designing ways to prevent their damage, as well as learning about electricity and building electric circuits.”

Henson’s first summer camp was offered during the summer at a local church. 

“They had read about the flood and Noah’s ark in the Bible, and I built on that knowledge by talking with them and having them learn about, design and create dams and levees. I was nervous, as this was my first time, but it was fun.”

Henson and the ELHAS group also participated in a STEM night at Amy Beverland ELC and helped students make neon lava lamps with their families.

“I helped sponsor a robotic team by giving them money to help their team, too,” he says. “I hope to use the Power of Children award money to do more of that. I hope that another child will get hooked on STEM like I am through these activities.” 

Henson’s mom, LaMonica, is very proud of her son. 

“Ptolemy won’t tell you that he had a 4.49 grade point average, but I will,” she says. “He’s on the National Technical Honor Society and is currently serving on the board of the JumpIN for Healthy Kids (a community-wide multi-sector effort to give children and families real opportunities to make healthy choices) this year. He’s also participated in the United Way youth leadership program.” 

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