Where Are All the STEM Influencers?
STUDENTS | February 25, 2021
Where Are All the STEM Influencers?

By Simarah J., a sophomore at Englewood STEM High School

One of my favorite memories of elementary school was creating a habitat for butterflies in science class. This year, my favorite class is chemistry, and I’m looking forward to using a lead test kit as part of our studies on rust. 

During the pandemic, I’ve taken part in a program that my counselor told me about through ComEd where I get to do hands-on science projects while connecting with other students from across Chicago. I recently constructed a solar-powered car and was able to hear from Black leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in celebration of Black History Month. 

As you can probably tell, I love science. But I also love to paint. I’m a soccer player. I dabble in playing the ukulele. I’m not just one thing. If someone were to tell me that I can’t pursue STEM because of my other interests, I would tell them that science and art aren’t opposites. Art can be a part of STEM. 

With my solar-powered car, I can look at it from the perspective of an artist and add different creative elements to make it even better. 

I’ve developed my love of science by being exposed to it both in CPS and outside of the classroom too. And I think there’s another tool we have to expose students like me to STEM: social media. 

Social media is a powerful tool to spread messages and information, and it can also spread confidence. I’ve felt that confidence during Black History Month seeing teens my age on TikTok being Black and proud and teaching me things that I didn’t even know about my history. 

When I think about who has encouraged me to explore my interest in science, I think about my mom, my teachers, and even some of the speakers in the ComEd program. One speaker said that even if you don’t think you can be a part of STEM, you can be a part of STEM, and so can anyone. 

Where are these voices on social media? We have influencers for clothes, makeup, and even snacks. Why can’t my Instagram feed include resources for female students of color who want to pursue STEM careers? Not only would this help encourage students like me, but it would also uplift Black contributors in STEM unlike anything that has ever been done before. 

During Black History Month, your social media is probably covered with pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. But do you know about Otis Boykin, who developed electronic control devices for missiles and pacemakers? He’s just one example of a Black inventor who changed the world. 

Black History Month should be a time to celebrate our accomplishments across every industry and field. Students should be encouraged to learn about Black scientists who they have never heard of before. I hope social media can help us talk to and learn from each other, and I also think students need access to more programs to help them discover what they are passionate about. 

Resources like these will only help students feel more confident about what they can accomplish. Through my time talking with other students through the ComEd program, I already feel like I will have the confidence to talk to more people at school about my interests when we’re back at Englewood STEM together.

Because I’m not just one thing. I’m Simarah the artist, the soccer player, and the ukulele enthusiast. And while the ‘S’ in STEM obviously stands for science, in my world, I don’t see why it can’t also stand for Simarah. 

Simarah J. is a graduate of Sabin Magnet School and a member of the first class of students at Englewood STEM High School. On top of chemistry, she says that world history is another favorite class of hers this school year.