There’s no place like home. Being born and raised in Kansas, my association with this saying has changed over time. When I lived at home with my parents in rural Kansas, it was a homage to “The Wizard of Oz”. Fun saying to use, but little meaning to me.
When I moved to Texas, my friends would use it as a kind joke to reference where I was from. One of them even purchased me a pair of red glitter shoes, which I wore and would click three times during graduate school when my experiments were not going well. Still not something I ever really thought about.
Flash forward to now – I am 31 years old, a chemical engineer specialized in crystallization, about to get married, purchased my first house, and finally settled into my PULSE assignment with the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective. As a Community Engagement Coordinator for the Collective, I’ve been researching the greater Philadelphia schools. During this examination of the area, I realized that while my schools were subpar for education (no AP courses, limited dual credit college courses, and minimal STEM classes), I am extremely privileged in terms of my family.
Both of my parents have engineering degrees and have been happily married for 43 years. They were very involved in our education and after school programs whether it was sports or band or yearbook. One of them always showed up just to support us. Even at home, they helped us do science experiments in the yard or build light switch circuits. “There’s no place like home” means more to me now as I would not be where I am today without it.
I believe in a public education where no matter who you are or where you live you should receive at least some basic level to where you could succeed and go into a STEM career field. I am a product of that system. I did not go to a fancy school. My elementary school did not have actual walls between classes, but partitions. However, all of the necessary STEM courses were available and I had role models at home.
When looking into some of the schools in the Philadelphia area, I noticed that some portion of them did not offer the math courses necessary (trigonometry and calculus) for someone to apply for college or university majoring in a STEM field. Some students may never have had a role model in their life who had a career in a STEM field and know the potential possibilities for their future. The home life of students may include single parents or divorced or extended family who may not have the time to actively support the activities of their children in or out of school.
The system is failing those students who are Black, Latino/Latina, and female and we need to fix it. It will not be easy or quick, but it is necessary for the future. The Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective is trying to start that change.
For now, a simple thing that everyone needs to do that has an impact on the education system at the federal, state and local level is vote in elections.