VISTA Guest Posts - Alumni: Creating STEM Opportunities in Maryland
A little over a year ago I was preparing for what I thought would only be a year long journey, but what started as a year of service has since dramatically altered my life. As a new graduate looking for purpose and a way to pay impending college loans, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an AmeriCorps posting that allowed me to do that and more. Over a year later, I’m building a life in a new state, laying the foundation for my career, and learning more about myself and what I am truly capable of. I wouldn’t be here without AmeriCorps, and I truly believe that my year of service was just as impactful to me, as it was to the community I served.
I served as a MOST VISTA increasing STEM opportunities for youth in Western Maryland with 4-H University of Maryland Extension. I had a long history promoting STEM education as a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) scholar in college, but this opportunity as a VISTA was a place for me to translate what I did in college into real-life career experience. I was also genuinely interested in giving youth the opportunity to learn science and engineering in a fun way, but right out of college I was unsure how to translate this desire into a career. After much research into AmeriCorps and the work being done across the country by VISTAs, I knew that it was the bridge I was looking for to help me transition into post-college life in a meaningful way. VISTA allowed me the opportunity to travel to a new city, gain career experience and build relationships in the field, all while helping
youth by doing something I loved.
Although the experience has been worthwhile, living as a VISTA surely had its struggles. To fully understand the plight of those living in poverty, most VISTAs live in the same neighborhoods, live off of meager means, and face similar challenges. It was truly an eye-opening experience, and a life I would have never experience if not a VISTA. I can see the world through a different
lens, and that alone has helped shaped me into a more socially conscious human being. The person VISTA has helped me become is one that is empowered to make positive contributions to society and meet any challenge that comes my way.
Now over a year after embarking on this journey I am at my dream job. I am the STEM Specialist at the Girls Scouts of Central Maryland working to inspire the next generation of female STEM professionals. This position allows me to use my previous experiences in WISE and AmeriCorps to provide young girls, especially minorities and underserved girls, with eye-opening and inspiring experiences in STEM.
For many of these girls, access to science, technology and out-of-school time activities is very limited, which puts these girls at a grave disadvantage in today’s technologically advanced world. The STEM field as a whole also loses out on the new ideas and innovation that comes with the influx of people from diverse backgrounds. Changing the current look of the STEM field starts with making science, technology, engineering and math more exciting and accessible to our girls. Growing up I was lucky enough to have mentors and opportunities that opened those doors for me, now I couldn’t
be more proud to do my part for these girls and see where STEM takes them.