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ESA opened their doors on Historic Jefferson Street in September 2020. Matthias Winfree, Director, established the program in 2017 when he was inspired to create a mentoring program that catered to the youth who were STEM and the Arts “forward-thinkers”, and that needed a stronger foundation in mathematics. At first, the program was intended for educationally disadvantaged, economically disadvantaged, and socially disadvantaged youth in the North Nashville Community, but quickly turned into a math enhancement, mentoring and the arts program for any youth who needs help.


There is a major disconnection between mathematics and our youth. A significant amount of STEM-focused college freshmen across the country are ill-prepared for mathematics courses. This usually leads to students changing their major, or even dropping out of college altogether. When a student changes their educational path without really knowing what they want to do next, their educational journey to ultimately "ELEVATE in life or society" can become uncertain, feeling defeated and less confident. ESA was created to help alleviate this problem, and to do that the focus was directed toward the youth.

There is a high demand for U.S. high school graduates who are prepared to enter advanced schooling and careers requiring STEM knowledge, and now there are more than 2.8 million career opportunities for STEM lovers, yet there is a shortage of people with the proper educational background in mathematics. Studies show that students who take advanced math courses and major in high-demand STEM fields in post-secondary education tend to get hooked and make their choices as early as middle school. So, establishing a mathematics foundation early in their life is key; and because artistic expression and the field of STEM are very much related, the arts became intertwined in everything ESA offers. 

ESA's goals are to educate our youth, create with our youth, connect and collaborate with Colleges and Universities to mentor our youth, and connect with the community and around the world to support our youth. 

(See FAQ on What does art have to do with a STEM program?) 

Meet the Director of ESA


Matthias Winfree
Osiyo (“Hello” in Cherokee), my name is Matthias, the Director of Elevate: STEM & the Arts (ESA). One of my goals is to support the youth when they are realizing who they are, what they’re passionate about, and how to articulate their life and goals. Many of our youth struggle with issues of identity, meaning, and purpose. ESA was created to mentor, inspire and create with our youth, all while providing quality educational support.
I have eighteen years of experience in education and mentoring and seven years of experience in educational consulting. I am a mathematics instructor at Tennessee State University and I currently attend Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) as a PhD student in Mathematics Education.  I have a Master’s in Education from Lipscomb University, and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Tennessee State University.

I am also a visual artist with thirty years of experience in the arts and crafts, specializing in multimedia art. My family roots are in Tennessee and North Carolina, and I am an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, from the Anikawi (Deer) Clan, which represents Peace. I Love God the Universal Creator, my Family/spending time with them, the Natural World, Creating, Traveling, Swimming, Hiking, and Learning.

Donadagohvi (“Until we meet again” in Cherokee)

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