Jasmine James – STEM Super Youth Advocate: Yakima
As a San Francisco Native, I experienced a huge gap when it came to connecting underrepresented youth to STEM opportunities. For this this reason, and throughout most of my youth, I was unaware of the importance and endless possibilities within these fields of study. My family encouraged me to strive in my classes and to become a nurse, which are both positive and great things, that was the entirety of my family’s understanding of success. During my high school years, all I knew was that I loved math and that my family wanted me to become a nurse.
It was not until moving to Yakima, Washington and studying at Yakima Valley College (YVC), that I realized that there were many career options available for STEM majors. Through programs and clubs like Washington MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) and YVC’s Engineering Club, I was able to attend conferences that broadened my understanding of what it means to be a student pursuing a STEM career. I became aware of fields that include computer science, physics, engineering, mathematics, etc. The day I attended the University of Washington’s WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) Conference, was the day I decided to pursue a career of my own interest that involved high levels of math. I changed majors that quarter and began pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.
My family is equally happy with this decision because they understand that it is something I am passionate about and excited to learn; they completely support me in my academic endeavors. I am very grateful for YVC’s MESA Program because they believed in me and invested their time and resources into exposing me to wide variety of possibilities. For this reason, I am a strong advocate of programs and organizations that invest in less affluent communities by providing them with skills and knowledge that will allow them to go far in life.
I am also a supporter of career connected learning, which incorporates various STEM concepts into academic lessons while connecting it to a multitude of career options. This gives young, diverse children an opportunity to begin thinking about a wide variety of potential professions at an early age and the change to better prepare themselves while in their primary and secondary education. I have first-hand experience in the positive outcomes related to this type of learning because I am part of the Engineering Fellows Program, a program that allows engineering professionals and engineering students to work side by side with fifth-grade teachers to design engineering challenges that are implemented into the local fifth-grade curriculum. Through this opportunity, I have gained a higher understanding of the importance of diversity in STEM.
I aim to connect diverse individuals to STEM opportunities by continuously working with my colleagues to introduce youth to a wide variety of careers in engineering and technology. In 2017, I became an out-of-state volunteer for Dev/Mission, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that exposes young adults ages 16-24 to careers in tech by teaching intro to programming, hardware and software components, and career readiness skills. I was able to gather like-minded engineering students at YVC to assist in establishing the Dev/Mission Yakima Chapter. Now, I am the Program Coordinator of the first out-of-state Dev/Mission Chapter where untapped young adults are being trained for careers in the tech industry at the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Washington.
I am very excited to be a STEM Super Youth Advocate because it gives me the opportunity to share my story and inspire others to pursue STEM despite their background. I am a proud to say that I am a First- Generation College Student, an Afro-Latina Women, and STEM Super Youth Advocate!