When I was in seventh grade I noticed a low participation of students from underserved schools in science fairs. This pattern repeated at local, state, and national science fairs. I wanted to find out the reasons behind it. So I started reading articles about equity in STEM. I realized that people from underserved communities are poorly represented in STEM-based careers. Lack of resources and role models were cited as some of the possible reasons. The papers I read further indicated that in middle school students from low socio-economic backgrounds lose interest in STEM subjects. I decided to do something about this. I began by investigating the career interests of middle school students from neighboring low-income school districts . I reached out to the school district officials at Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto which is a low income school district. I spoke to the school officials a couple of times to find more about the students and their academic interests. From my interviews with the school officials, I gathered that most of the students did not have enough exposure or familiarity with STEM related careers. They needed encouragement to pursue STEM careers and to see themselves as being successful in it. With the permission of the school, I interviewed and surveyed the students about their career aspirations. I created a survey on “Career Familiarity” and “Career Aspirations” by listing 35 exciting STEM careers. 66 students responded to the survey. Here are the results of the survey.
Top 5 STEM career that the students were familiar with were:
1. Science teacher (44)
2. Astronaut (40)
3. Professor (38)
4. Veterinarian (34)
5. Computer Engineer (31)
Top 5 STEM career aspirations for the students were:
1. Electronics and Telecommunications engineer (23)
2. Electrical engineer (20)
3. Physician assistant (18)
4. Mechanical engineer (17)
5. Aeronautical engineer (17)
The results of my investigation prompted me to start the Jobs of Tomorrow program. My goal is to encourage students to consider careers in STEM and see themselves as future leaders in these fields. I decided to seek the help of professionals to satisfy this mission.