Karma for Cara Foundation microgrant recipients have competed in an application process alongside other young people who spearhead an exceptional service project that benefits their community.
In order to qualify for a K4C award, an applicant must be 18 years of age or younger, and the project must take place in the US.
Who? Aiman (16 years old)
What? Chicago Association of Student Engineers (CASE), a nonprofit, student-run STEM organization for high school students interested in engineering
Where? Chicago IL
Why? We work to give members a stronger understanding of engineering basics and different careers relating to it. We have a variety of activities to achieve this goal – bi-weekly Zoom meetings with qualified professionals giving lectures and answering questions, in-person networking events where members can connect with those professionals more deeply and work on personal projects, and an in-progress tutoring service where our members help younger students gain a better understanding of STEM topics they learn in school.
The guest speakers are engineers or STEM professionals that we know either through personal connections or the Chicago Engineers Foundation, which is an adult organization that supports us. Guest speakers help educate members on what different engineering professions are like, and they do a lot of mentorship work as well through the in-person events we offer for networking. Many students have personal projects that the professionals support them with.
We reach out to schools across CPS to recruit students who are interested in engineering and hardworking individuals. We hope to guide dedicated students and help them with career planning and STEM-related projects. Generally, our hope is that CASE provides a platform for community building, mentorship, and education. We don’t require students to be planning for a STEM major or have a job related to it, but we do focus a lot on real-world applications of degrees and education in STEM, which we allow students to ask about at the end of every online presentation event. We aim to give access to all students interested in STEM, regardless of resources or funds, and currently have 38 members across Chicago Public Schools.
|What inspired you to start this project?
|As the daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college-bound student, I am deeply familiar with the generational impacts of inaccessible resources, especially for students interested in STEM careers. I was inspired to step up as President of CASE in order to help other Chicagoland students take advantage of a community of peers interested in engineering. For students from underprivileged areas and uninformed families, the guidance, resources, and connection to professionals that CASE provides has proven far-reaching. I’m constantly motivated to find opportunities to grow CASE by the stories of how we’ve helped students kick off their futures.
|While working on your project, what surprised you?
|As I continue to meet new members and grow CASE as a whole, I’ve been continually surprised by the diversity and character of students who benefit from our organization. Whether siblings looking to continue a family legacy of engineering, or seniors preparing for their postsecondary journeys, our 100+ members are a demonstration of the wide impact of engineering. Every time our members come together, I’m also thrilled by how willing the older members are to guide younger students. CASE has shown me how passionate and caring many students are as long as they have opportunities to be that way.
|What do you feel you learned from this experience?
|Through my leadership of CASE and management of the funds granted to us by K4C, I’ve personally developed many leadership and team building skills. When I applied for the grant last year, I was the only non-senior leadership member. This year, I’ve worked to build a team of five members who manage different aspects of the CASE mission, including event planning, outreach to new students, updates to current members, and resource collection. Leading CASE with my team has taught me skills that I hadn’t learned in school, allowing me to continue contributing to my community in impactful ways.
|How did Karma for Cara impact your project?
|The K4C grant funded all of CASE’s 23-24 semester-one activities! Without Karma for Care, we wouldn’t have been able to fund resources at our newly formed chapters at member high schools, pay for everything at our Winter Kickoff Event, run the monthly newsletter that shares summer programs and other opportunities, or have full-length online events from professionals. Though we are an organization that has run for several years, we are entirely student-run with leaders that constantly change as students graduate, so support from other organizations is key.