My STEM Story
Storyteller: André (he/him/his), 24, New York
“Hey, my name is Andre, and I just want to tell you what my STEM story is.
When I was younger, I moved around a lot. And I actually moved around between districts with different standards one year. And I came into seventh grade, having been skipped ahead a year in a math class, without anyone telling me that was going to happen, and it really impacted my understanding of what was going on, and from there, I really felt like I suffered in math for a long time. And I knew I had fun with sciences but by the time I got to college, those two things felt way too far apart from each other. I didn't have the foundation and it was really intimidating for me to get involved in any capacity. But my college also had a science requirement. And so I picked a course that I thought and I had heard from other people was going to be like, the easy way to slip through, where I would be able to actually study the agricultural industry in the US and learn about some of the scientific components of it. But my understanding was that it was mostly going to be a social sciences class, and so I was really excited for that. That was where a lot of my coursework had been already.
And we got to the class, and the teacher was a biologist, and it was nothing like what I expected. We were learning about chemistry, we were learning about the process of how GMOs work, we were learning about the digestive system of different animals, and all of these components were actually being mixed in throughout the course of our kind of social scientific understanding of how agricultural laws were being built. And for me, that combination was so exciting, and actually launched me to pick biology as one of my minors. And so that's how I ended up going back and learning biology, learning molecular biology, taking neuroscience, learning animal behavior, and really diving deep into the sciences in a way that I thought was never going to happen for me, because I had so many years of discouragement.
And for me, one of the things that was the best outcome of that process was that I got to rediscover other things. I got to -- once I started going back and had to like, really dig into the math and rebuild my foundation -- I got to learn that I loved other forms of math. I refound, you know, my love for geometry and for statistics, and it was so exciting to know that there were all these different possibilities ahead of me, and this whole world that I thought was, you know, not built for me and something that I didn't have access to. So that's why I always, you know, whenever someone says to me, like, “Oh, I don't like the sciences,” I always say, “Well, maybe you just don't like the way you've learned it so far, or the way it's been taught.” And not everyone has to be in the social side, or not everyone has to be in the sciences like biology and chemistry and physics, but I know that STEM can offer so much to so many people, and it's just about revisiting the ways that we, you know, fund it, the ways that we provide resources, and the ways that we teach it. And re-engaging STEM in a new way, I think, is going to unlock it for so many more people. So that's my STEM story. Thanks for listening.”