I’ll start this post with some true to heart honesty and a lot more in-formality. It might be a long read – so bear with me!
When I was younger, as a kid born under one nationality, growing up in another and moving around, I never really found a place I truly fit in. I’m sure many of you can relate to that! Even after all these years, I can never understand why I felt that way. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would say “Hang in there, you little weirdo! It’s gonna get better!”. With my thick glasses and academic excellence (I’ll add how terrible I was at sports!), I still never felt like I fit in with everyone around me. I had some great friends (some who are still close to me), I had the grades, I was the president of many many clubs, I was a great speaker, I was an artist……..regardless something never felt right. Thankfully it all got better and life’s been good to me. I surely got better at staying physically fit. Thanks to my love to heavy lift!
But this post isn’t about me, but about so many other kids like me. After years and years of working with kids of all ages, I can see when there’s a kid sitting in the corner and feeling left out. I can relate and it makes my heart ache. Back when I started working with students, one of my favorite thing to do was to go out to schools and local children homes and talk to kids. Talk to them about cool robots, star wars, harry potter and show them that if they REALLY want to, they can grow up to be scientists, engineers, and try to make the world a better place.
I cannot really give any names, but I’ve known countless kids who came up to me saying they do not fit in anywhere in school. They come from broken homes, financially struggling households and cannot talk to their parents. Or if they are orphans, they have no one to really talk to. They get bullied at school and are called names like “NERD”, “GEEK”, “LOSER”. They suffer from low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. They have no where to go and sometimes they don’t know how to deal with this isolation. Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure not all kids are the same. But there is a population of the ill-fitted and that’s who I advocate for. I do what I do to give them hope and purpose.
Being a STEM advocate is not about trying to recruit students into STEM fields. For me, being a STEM advocate is primarily to show these kids that there is a place to fit in. By being a part of K-12 STEM programs and activities, they can finally be themselves and find people who are exactly like them. They learn social skills, build friendships and find adults who can guide them to a proper path in life. Over the years, my students still stay in touch with me and it it makes me proud to see them succeed in life. Not just professionally, but success in being better individuals. We have had fun, celebrated holidays together as a group, I have been invited to their school plays, they come asking for help with algebra, I have tried to support them in anyway I can, and I am glad to know I am not alone in doing this. I have been honored to know many grownups who do more than I can imagine.
So be a PROUD nerd and know that there is always a fit out there for you! I constantly encourage parents and teachers to let their kids FIND their own fit. Remember, you cannot make a square peg fit in a round hole!
Image courtesy of –
FRC Team 1817 – Llano Estacado RoboRaiders