STEM Ambassadors promote math, science with high school students

Students participating in Tufts’ STEM Ambassadors will begin visiting high school classrooms next Friday to encourage students to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and study math and science in college.

STEM Ambassadors is a joint program between the Center for STEM Diversity and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Shirley Mark, director of community partnerships at Tisch College, said.

Mark explained that Tisch College is committed to providing resources and creating ways for students to engage with local communities on issues of concern. Tisch College’s involvement in this project includes helping the ambassadors connect with local communities and sponsoring Kelly Nguyen to assist with the program as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.

“[Tufts’ STEM Ambassadors] brings together both of our missions,” she said.

According to Nguyen, the ambassadors will be going into two high schools, Medford High School and Josiah Quincy Upper School. The ambassadors will visit each school twice. They will be going to Medford High School this month and Josiah Quincy Upper School in March, Nguyen said.

Nguyen explained that she grew up in Medford and attended Medford High School. She talked to many of her old science teachers, who are now department heads, to bring STEM Ambassadors to Medford High School. She knew students from Josiah Quincy Upper School from past college access programs that she had been involved in at Tufts.

Next Friday, the ambassadors will visit Medford High School from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., she said. She explained that they are trying to go into most of the ninth grade Introductory Physics classes, and are aiming to go into 12 classrooms this month. This plan would target about 240 high school first-years, she estimated.

Tufts junior and STEM Ambassador Sara Hogan explained that seven Tufts ambassadors will be participating in the program this year. She said each ambassador will individually present different STEM topics of interest, give a 10-minute presentation to the high school students and organize an activity for them to do. A second ambassador will attend the presentation and help facilitate the activity.

Hogan explained that she will be presenting on the chemistry of glow sticks and that she will then lead students in making glow sticks. Another ambassador will be doing a presentation on building design for deaf people, emphasizing design based on who is using the building and not the space, she added.

One of the primary goals of the program is to emphasize that science builds teamwork, creativity and independence, Nguyen explained.

“I hope that the students will gain a new enthusiasm for science,” she said.

Hogan said she believes that the program will provide something for the high school students to relate to because the ambassadors are young.

“I feel like I never had anything like this, especially in high school,” she said.

According to Nguyen, all seven ambassadors are first-generation college students. She hopes that they can get these students, especially those that are women and students of color, to pursue science as a career and to see college as a beneficial future option.

“Science is for everybody, and everybody can be successful at science,” Program Administrator of the Center for STEM Diversity at Tufts Kristin Finch said.

Finch added that fewer minorities and fewer women go into science, and that having diversity in the field is very important so that different viewpoints and backgrounds can be brought into it.

“Studies have shown that diverse teams are more successful than teams that come in from the same background,” she said.

Through this program, she hopes that the ambassadors learn communication and leadership skills. She believes that these are transferable skills and that being able to talk about these complex topics to a general audience is something that will be beneficial to the ambassadors in the future.

“For the STEM Ambassadors at Tufts, I just really hope that they learn communication skills and leadership skills,” she said.

Tufts’ STEM Ambassadors is part of a national network called Engineering Ambassadors, according to Finch.

Hogan said she is excited to go into the classrooms next week and hopes that the students feel the same way.

“I’m really hopeful that the kids are excited, because I feel like that’s going to be the best part of the whole thing,” she said.