Baron Paterson – STEM Super Youth Advocate: Tri-Cities
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been interested in how different machines worked. My parents were always the ones explaining things to me. They would also encourage me to contribute some of my birthday money to either those who were less fortunate or an environmental cause. With my intense curiosity and my parents’ guidance, I chose a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I want to create something that would positively impact other people’s lives one day.
My high school did not make much effort to reach out to students to take STEM classes. There were AP courses available, but I was never encouraged to take them. Like most students at my school, I considered these classes as burdens rather than opportunities. Rather than focusing on learning and growing, we all just wanted to graduate. Students don’t see a purpose in learning math or science because they don’t see themselves using math or science in the future. I still took some AP classes, but I did not understand how they could help me in the future.
When I went to college I found out that this was the case in many other schools. Many people I met would tell me that their high schools didn’t offer any AP or college-level courses. Some people were fortunate enough to have those courses available in high school, but they were not interested in the topics. One thing most people, including me, agreed on was that science and math classes were useless to them.
However, my college coursework changed my viewpoint on these classes. My first-year courses in mechanical engineering were using math and science concepts that I had learned in high school. I was very excited to see how my previous coursework could be applied to the field I’m passionate about. I finally understood the purpose of all the STEM courses I took in high school. There were also many clubs available for me to join, which provided me plenty of hands-on opportunities to practice technical skills outside of my regular coursework. It’s very encouraging when I can connect what I have learned in the classroom to projects I am working on outside of the school. STEM education became tangible to me. Every day I feel closer to achieving my dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.
When I found out about Washington STEM, I was motivated by its mission. They want to spread career connected learning throughout Washington’s education system before students get to college. Career connected learning is precisely what was missing in my high school experience, and I was not the only one. Being a STEM Super Youth Advocate allows me to show students how STEM education will be beneficial in the future. It allows me to tell my own story of overcoming financial and academic challenges to pursue my college degree. I hope my story will inspire other students to keep pushing for their dreams. That’s why I’m a STEM Super Youth Advocate.