Storyteller: Arsima (she/her/hers), 18, Illinois
“In school, I am a pretty well-rounded student. I would always enroll in accelerated or honors STEM courses and perform well, but I consistently felt disconnected from the material. Whether it was integrals in Calculus or studying the Krebs cycle in Biology, none of it applied to my lived experiences. Sometimes the material was hard to grasp and I would need extra assistance, but that came with the instilled doubt of questioning my occupation of space in these classes... Am I holding the class back by asking for an in-depth explanation? Does this teacher think any less of me for asking? Being of the few female students in the class and the only Black student, fed into this apathy for STEM.
With my involvement in activism, I learned about environmental justice. This focuses on the racial and class inequities of the climate crisis we are experiencing today. For the first time, I enrolled in a STEM class excited to learn more about the environment. Throughout the course, I felt connected to the material for the first time. My teacher did an incredible job incorporating relevant articles on maternal mortality affecting Black mothers, residential segregation and the effect of intra-urban heat on low-income communities, and the destruction of Indigenous lands through oil and gas companies. The class discussions were productive and interesting as many were learning of these crises for the first time. Despite this class taking place digitally due to COVID-19, I was excited to log onto this Zoom class every morning.
In college, I look forward to finding STEM classes that explore societal inequities into the material. All it took was one class to change my approach to this field of study, I can only imagine what careers and passions I can create out of this newfound interest. I hope that all STEM classes can learn to incorporate themes of equity and inclusion and explore how we can achieve equitable education in the classroom.”