Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2017 – Igniting the STEM Spark

Name: Katelyn Wahl
From: Vero Beach, FL
Grade: 12
School: Sebastian River High School
Votes: 0

Katelyn Wahl

Igniting the STEM Spark

After I completed my first science fair project in elementary school, I knew that
scientific discovery was what drives me. As I probed the many facets
of science’s inherent ambiguity, the more insatiable my desire
became. Fortunately, I grew up in a supportive educational environment with encouragement
from my parents and teachers. Now I consider myself an impassioned
scientist with aspirations of becoming a biomedical engineer. But not
everyone is so lucky.

Students in my county are losing ground in STEM and the unfettered
scientific curiosity that was sparked in me at a young age has become
the exception. Over the past five years, our students are losing
ground in science and math. I noticed diminishing participation in
science research and competitions. There are seven elementary schools
in our community that are struggling with substantially below-average
Florida science achievement scores. Results demonstrate that 60-70%
of the students attending these schools are weak in science.

Our schools strive to balance STEM education with the demands of test
prep. Most often, students are asked to do their science projects on
the side with little to no guidance. Many students don’t know that
they can achieve in STEM, or even that they have the aptitude for it,
for various reasons including a lack of encouragement in the home. I
saw this as an opportunity for me to be a change-maker with education
by sharing my passion in tangible ways to help to bridge the STEM gap
and lead to a positive direction in the future for our community.

Inspired to become an impetus for change, I founded a Science Fair
Mentoring Program for our community’s underprivileged young
students, aiming to dispel the preconceived notion that STEM is dull,
intimidating, and male-dominated. I believe this program shows that
students are instrumental as mentors in helping to foster interest in
STEM education. The workshops help to spark motivation so that the
kids want to learn more. There was such a big response and excitement
over the program; I realized there was in fact this great need yet no
outlet. Reigniting enthusiasm for science is paramount. Hopefully,
this program will make a lasting impact in my community, helping
students see the realm of science in a new light and realizing that
futures in STEM are achievable.

Based on my experience, I’ve learned there is nothing more
rewarding than realizing that mentorship makes a difference. The most
memorable part is seeing the kids’ excitement when they talked
about their ideas. Watching the fascination flourish in school
children fulfills me. The one thing I will always tell young children interested in STEM is to make the
most of your opportunities. There are many paths you can follow
within STEM and so many ways in which you can have a real impact on
the world. Through promoting STEM, I yearn to see the desire to
“know” revitalized and enhanced. Not only do I hope to see the
light reignited, but I seek to be the one fanning the flame.

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