Minority children across the South and Central Coasts are being encouraged to pursue science careers. A youth summit in Ventura County targeted minority students with the hope that they would get excited about STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“RH determines whether it’s positive or negative?” said 17-year-old Shani Melbourne, who is in a biology workshop about blood at a Youth Summit at Oxnard College.
“It’s just a whole new learning experience. Some of its review, some of it’s new,” she says.
Melbourne says she already knows that she wants to pursue a career in computer science, but this program is getting her even more excited about science in general.
“It kind of shows that it’s an expansive field. That there’s a lot that I don’t know, and it seems that the more I go into it, I know that more surprises will hit me,” she says.
Melbourne is one of more than 200 underserved middle and high schools students from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties who is participating in this Youth Summit designed to empower minority youth to pursue science professions.
The program is hosted in part by the Channel Islands Chapter of The Links Incorporated, a nonprofit volunteer service organization made up of professional women of color.
“We are serving the underserved with a focus on African-American or black. However, in our region of Ventura County and Santa Barbara, a lot of the need is for the Latino community. So, a lot of our activities brings in quite a few minorities from that ethnicity,” says Sophia Sharp-Donaldson, who is a board member who helped plan this event.
“Our youth matter. And investing in our minority youth and exposing them to the sciences will help them grow, help our communities grow. And it starts with our youth,” she says.
Melbourne, who’s both black and female, says she’s gained confidence knowing that nothing should ever stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a computer programmer.
“I can still do this even if I’m not like you. I’m my own person. To know that I can do the same thing. I can even do it better. And it’s not based off of my race or not based off my gender but based off of who I am and what I know. I think it’s very important that they do do these things because it helps inspire people like me,” she says.
Wayne Thomas, a molecular biologist who works for the American Red Cross, is teaching these students how to determine someone’s blood type.
“I hope that they pick a career in the sciences with no limitations. They’ll take it to the very top of their field and understand that there’s always something new to learn, and all you have to do is look for it,” he says.
These interactive science workshops are inspiring students like 12-year-old Zy Bradley.
“It opened my eyes for me. It showed me so many new things and so many experiments you can do,” she says.
Many of these underserved kids don’t see others that are like them take on science careers. Sharp-Donaldson says the hope is to change that way of thinking.
“What I like about the Youth Summit is if we touch one kid and they walk away today excited about the sciences because they came to our workshop, then we’ve succeeded,” she says.