DA4S Gives Back – Community Outreach Program
I have been a member of Diversity Alliance for Science since its inception and cannot be more grateful for the opportunities that this organization has provided to me, and the knowledge I have gained from being in contact with all the amazing members of the organization.
I am currently a board member and one of my responsibilities is being the Lead of the Community Outreach Committee that raises funds to support organizations whose mission is to educate, mentor, prepare and inspire students to pursue careers in life science/STEM related fields. We can’t be what we can’t see, so one of our goals is to raise awareness in communities where STEM programs do not exist so that we can enlighten those communities with career opportunities that are available from a STEM education.
Diversity Alliance for Science EAST COAST CONFERENCE-STEM Student Workshop
At our June conference, we brought in students from local communities (Hackensack High School and West Essex YMCA) for a half-day hands-on workshop to learn more about life sciences through interactive activities and discussions. The students introduced themselves and explained what interested them most about STEM and what their aspirations were for a career, which ranged from various computer science careers from architect to video game creator. Several of the students volunteer at various organizations including hospitals, and some also had part-time jobs.
It was fascinating to see the transformation of the students from the time they walked into the room; shy and very reserved, to when they left, confident and energized. During the workshop they had several opportunities to participate, including having center stage to speak to the group. At one point, they were divided into two groups and charged with creating a STEM-related business idea and having to pitch the idea to judges “shark tank” style.
I was in awe of how thorough, creative, and bright their ideas were. One of the groups came up with a social responsibility business that would solve the drinking water problem of South Africa. They even went as far as talking about the scalability of the business with global expansion in countries with the biggest needs. I played the role of a “shark” and asked a lot of questions that they addressed beautifully – I was sold on it and ready to invest!
One of the highlights for the students was that they were able to participate in the keynote speaker luncheon. They went from having the experience of pitching a business idea as if they were on Shark Tank, to meeting an actual Shark- the Universe always conspires! They not only heard the amazing and inspiring keynote speech by Shark Tank star, Daymond John, they shook his hand, posed for a picture with him, and all received a signed copy of his latest book, Rise and Grind!
WHAT WE ARE DOING TO HELP
One of the interesting (and alarming) takeaways from the workshop was that out of the 20+ high school students, there was only one female, and only one from the middle school group. This was confirmation of the fact that there is a significant under-representation of women in STEM professions. Gender aside, concentration on awareness and training the next generation to have the skills necessary to secure professions in STEM-related fields is more critical now than ever. The Community Outreach Committee shares that mission. We are taking our knowledge on the road to a variety of schools and educational events to educate the next-generation about the possibilities for professions in the STEM field and to raise awareness of the importance of STEM education, with particular attention on diverse communities where schools are not teaching enough STEM or do not have the resources to even have a STEM program. We make it our responsibility to give back by raising money and promoting awareness to enhance programs in all communities.
TO SUM IT UP…
I would strongly encourage anyone with a passion for giving back to get involved in our Committee. Together we can create a much more inclusive environment in STEM. For more information and to volunteer on the committee, contact: Elisabete Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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