Karma for Cara Foundation awards microgrants to youths 18 years of age and younger who spearhead exceptional service projects in their communities. Microgrant recipient Minh of Louisville, KY has been working with a nonprofit called STEMY (STEM + Youth). STEMY has focused its energies on 90-120 local middle school students, specifically from underrepresented backgrounds in the STEM fields and makes STEM fun for students. For Minh’s project, STEMY Academy, two versions of sessions exist: A) every other week at 3 underserved middle schools for exposure purposes, and B) 3-hour sessions after school and/or on weekends for more intensive instruction. All sessions focused on educating students about real-world problems being solved through STEM. Minh + others involved in STEMY (Betty, Priya & Allison) participated in the interview below.
- How many volunteers participated in your project? How many hours did it involve? In the first year, over 20 volunteers participated in Part A in addition to the student leaders. Each individual volunteered for 1.5 hours for each session they signed up for. For Part A, a total of 200 volunteer hours were completed (including planning hours). 24 student volunteers and 6 adult volunteers participated in Part B in addition to the student leaders. Each individual volunteered for 3 hours for each session they signed up for. For Part B, a total of 150 volunteer hours were completed (including planning). For the first year of STEMY Academy, we will have 40 volunteers and a total of 350 hours of service completed towards STEMY Academy’s mission.
- What did you learn from this experience? Through engagement within the community, we realized how significant the barriers—socioeconomic, gender and race—are to transformative STEM education. However, through STEMY Academy, the systematic challenges in STEM education that students face can be mediated through initiatives, such as our program, that take into account student voice and is made as accessible for interested students as possible. It allows students the opportunity to expand their knowledge, spark passions and interests and additionally bring these new skills with them through higher education and to a higher-paying career. Most importantly, we learned that our passion and actions have the potential to drastically challenge and combat the systematic barriers that some students face.
- How will your project continue having an impact in the future? STEMY Academy will be a long-term program, and we plan to engage the same students at the same schools throughout their middle school careers. We’ll also begin to branch out to more local middle schools in future years of the program. STEMY Academy will continue to bring this education and influence a diverse group of students, breaking gender, racial, and socioeconomic barriers in the community.
- Overall, summarize how your project was completed and how you think it went. STEMY Academy was done in collaboration with several local middle schools and the Kentucky Science Center. Abridged, STEMY Academy is a two-pronged initiative; the first (Part A) includes fun, engaging activities that are not conventionally taught in classrooms whereas the second (Part B) is more challenging and STEM-focused. Students in part B extensively engage in certain STEM related topics that are relevant to our society. Our initiative was completed through meticulous planning of activities to run for Part A and engaging topics to approach for Part B. So far, the program has been incredibly successful. We have engaged almost 100 students in the Louisville area—most of whom come have faced barriers towards a substantial STEM-education— and they have shown great interest and improvement in STEM material. In Part B of STEMY Academy we give students more hands-on opportunities to engage in STEM.
- How was the Karma for Cara microgrant helpful in the completion of your project? STEMY Academy targets a very large audience: close to 100 middle schoolers across both Part A and Part B. The Karma for Cara microgrant was incredibly helpful in obtaining sufficient materials so that all 100 students could fully participate in the various activities and become newly engaged and interested in STEM. Moreover, as a newly founded organization, we’re still trying to establish our program audience. The microgrant enabled us to effectively advertise and raise awareness for our program and mission.