Each year, since the beginning of our STEM outreach work in RTP, we have brought on at least two AmeriCorps VISTA members through a grant from Corporation for National and Community Service AmeriCorps VISTA program. The VISTAs we have had over the years have added to the richness, excitement and prosperity of our STEM program. This year is bittersweet, as we welcomed our final cohort of these fantastic and inspiring individuals. With that in mind, we celebrate Margo Greenawald and Anita Kamwendo, who started in July. Read on for their personal thoughts on their first weeks in the program. Welcome aboard, you two!
I’m a big World Cup fan, so the fact that the US women won the tournament (WOO!!!) in the same month that I started my position at STEM RTP made July one for the books. Just like Megan Rapinoe, recipient of the Golden Boot for the most goals scored in the tournament, I scored big: I was brought on as the Knowledge Management Lead at an organization with a mission that aligns with so many of my passions, including science, community building and education. My first week has been a whirlwind of meeting people and getting to know companies in Research Triangle Park (RTP), which was extremely valuable as a newbie in town. Here’s the highlight reel:
- Attending my first staff meeting and being introduced to the amazing visionaries that make up the Research Triangle Foundation (while eating the most incredible arepas from Guasaca!) It was awesome to learn right off the bat where STEM RTP fits in to the greater Research Triangle Foundation.
- Programming a robot at the SummerSTEM program organized by WakeEd Partnership in collaboration with Wake Tech and ABB, and getting to meet some area educators who are radiantly passionate about STEM education. Seeing how excited the teachers were about all of the things they learned and hearing how they planned to implement them in the classroom got me very excited to work on our Educator ExternTrips. How cool is it that I get to help make more inspirational events like this happen?!
- Seeing young girls excited and engaged at the Young Women in Tech event sponsored by an awesome RTP company, NetApp. The girls diligently worked to build robots, code a computer game in Python, and learn HTML and CSS to create their own blogs. The coolest part was hearing the insightful questions that the girls came up with to ask NetApp workers during the panel discussion. My favorite question: “What motivates you to keep going when you experience failure?”
- Consuming the most incredible cupcake that has ever graced my taste buds courtesy of Smallcakes at the Frontier RTP Happy Hour. This is definitely not what I imagined a real adult office building would be like, and I am so thrilled that my expectations did not become my reality. Instead, the culture looks like food trucks, hammocks, and dogs; you better believe I’ve been bragging non-stop about it to everyone I know.
- Hearing the wise words from our program manager, ReShockie, and other professionals in the area at Wolfspeed’s Inclusion & Diversity Conference. A Cree employee shared that their new CEO, Gregg Lowe, is very dedicated to increasing diversity in STEM, particularly in regards to the involvement of women. It’s awesome to hear that there are so many male allies out there working hard for change!
This first week has demonstrated to me the importance of connecting educators, students and companies in the area to advance STEM education, particularly for under-represented students. I am so excited to continue working with the inspiring team at STEM RTP to make this happen!
My first week in my role as Marketing and Events Lead with STEM RTP has been one awesome experience after another!
The internships and summer jobs I’ve had at other locations over the past four years are a far cry from the dynamic and innovative Frontier RTP campus. I arrived at the door at 9 AM sharp on Monday. My new boss, ReShockie, introduced me to my new co-worker and fellow VISTA, Margo. Both of us were full of questions as ReShockie gave us the grand tour of the Frontier 800 building. I didn’t know buildings like this existed, and it was really cool to learn about the role it plays in the community.
Over the week we got to visit three (three!) companies and observe some of the community outreach they are doing. On Tuesday we visited Wake Tech and shadowed a group of Wake County teachers on a Summer STEM professional development program experience. We had the opportunity to code robots and learn about the robotics company ABB and the work that they do. On Thursday we visited Net App, a data company, and observed their Young Women in Tech event. Watching the next generation of learners get excited about coding and computers was inspiring. Finally, on Friday, we visited CREE and Wolf Speed. There we sat in the audience as ReShockie participated in a panel discussion focused on diversity, inclusion and equity. After the panel, we engaged in breakout sessions about mentoring and deliberate career growth.
To see the steps that companies are taking to fulfill the mission of a more accessible, inclusive, well rounded community and employee base really helped me understand the goals we are trying to accomplish here at STEM RTP. It also confirmed my hunch that I picked the perfect place to complete my AmeriCorps VISTA service term.
Where else do you get to work in a building as awesome as Frontier RTP? Where else can you partner with companies as cool as NetApp and Cree? All while furthering the goal of exposing underserved and underrepresented youth in the area to the possibilities of a STEM career. It’s the perfect balance of location, partners and mission. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year!