The Sooner the Better – the Importance of Exposing Youth to STEM Career Paths

sjsu elemWritten by Philip Ye, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-2015

Does anybody know what STEM is? Over the past few weeks, I have been answering “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” to a wide variety of audiences. However, my biggest and most receptive audience are the fourth and fifth graders that my VISTA partner and I visit every week. For the last month, I have been visiting 7 different elementary schools in San Jose, CA. At each school, the Jay Pinson STEM Education Program, a program on the San Jose State University (SJSU) campus, strives to spark an interest in young audiences to pursue STEM fields. We aim to plant the idea at a young age, so it will be able to flourish when they reach their middle and high school years. The Jay Pinson STEM Education Program unites service-learning students from SJSU and sends the students out to elementary schools around San Jose to provide a 10-week afterschool program to underrepresented youth. In the after school program, we start by working on simple computer programming and advance all the way to keeping your information safe online. As a CSU STEM VISTA, I have been fortunate enough to help develop the curriculum for the program, evaluate its success, and help the SJSU service-learning students collaborate with San Jose elementary school students.

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Philip Ye, CSU STEM VISTA

My name is Philip Ye and I am a CSU STEM VISTA at San Jose State University. I recently graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology.  As a first generation college graduate, I discovered the wonderful world of science and realized how daunting and broad it can be. Throughout my college career, I stumbled around, trying to figuring out what I wanted to study. I started as a chemist during my freshman year, and quickly became overwhelmed and ultimately reverted to psychology. The lack of guidance and knowledge made the struggle difficult. During my sophomore year, a lingering interest in science was still residing in me. With the help of classmates and family, I decided to pick up another major that would complement my Psychology degree. Biology became my second passion and being able to see two different perspectives on how the brain works, which has prepared me for my future in psychiatry. Looking back, I was not able to get the support and guidance I needed to make some important, career defining decisions until I was a sophomore in college. This is why I believe that what I am doing is so important. Sparking interest, providing guidance, and introducing children to STEM at an early age will help shape the future of these children.

Each day that passes, I have the opportunity to learn about different STEM careers and discover best practices to having a positive influence on our younger generation.  Being in the heart of Silicon Valley, cybersecurity has been the topic of choice. Industry experts agree that jobs in cybersecurity are going to continue to grow. We live in a world of technology, everything from the water you drink to the phone in your hand has been touched by technology. The ability to keep our future safe is in the hands of the children we inspire. This is the reason I love STEM. I have learned that there are so many awesome STEM fields that no one knows about. Whenever I am able to learn about a new interesting field in STEM, I think to myself “Hey Phil, that would have been awesome to study, let’s see if we can make someone else excited about it too”.

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