Last summer as a NASA SEES intern, I met some of the most incredible people ever. Back to Space has done the same. Whenever I get the chance to work with other driven students from around the country, I learn of their amazing projects and successes, and my friends truly do inspire me every day! Today I have the pleasure to introduce my friend Archika Dogra, a current high school junior. We were SEES interns together (you can read more about that program here) and she’s done so many amazing things, one of which was starting an international organization called EduSTEM. I asked her to tell me a little bit more about what she does, so here’s an interview with one of the most amazing high school students I’ve ever met.Q
Q: Tell us a little bit about Edustem!
Archika: I’d love to! EduSTEM is an international initiative that seeks to educate, encourage, and empower underrepresented youths in STEM to use science and technology for social good. Our STEMX curriculum amplifies the notion that STEM is a catalyst for change and innovation- whether it be through STEMXPoliticalScience, STEMXEntrepreneurship, or even STEMXSports! Through our 100+ events, we’ve been super grateful to have been able to work with over 1,000 youths across our 10 chapters in 3 countries.
Q: What gave you the idea to start your organization?
Archika: Walking into my very first computer science camp, I found myself looking around a room of thirty boys and just one other girl. At first I was surprised, but later I found out that the issue was much more prevalent than I had ever imagined. STEM is overwhelmingly one of the most homogeneous and unrepresentative fields, with over 84% of STEM-related jobs being held by solely white and Asian men. Frankly, it’s pretty scary, considering that these individuals are creating some of the most powerful tools that will affect women, people of color, and low-income families- all left out of these decision-making processes.
Q: How did you get started?
Archika: EduSTEM was founded by myself and two other girls, Maya and Evelyn, from my community. We all saw the overarching disparities in educational access and inclusivity for women, racial minorities, and low-income students. Thus, we wanted to create educational spaces that embraced diversity, ensured that everyone’s voice was on an equal platform, and provided access to educational opportunity in underserved communities. We started with just five kids at a local community center over the course of three months. However, as our vision grew, so did the scope of our mission.
Q: How did you first begin to expand your organization, and what was it like to work internationally?
Archika: The summer after my freshman year, I spent a couple weeks at Stanford to work on a machine learning project through their computer science department’s outreach program. The program was centered around the application of STEM for social good, so I was blessed to be surrounded by a number of like-minded, ambitious, and compassionate high school students. After I talked about my work with EduSTEM, many of them reached out to me with the interest of starting a similar program in their communities. This inspired me to start EduSTEM’s chapter program, which has now grown to over 12 chapter leaders across the world. We worked hard to create a platform that provided financial assistance, curriculum, and logistical support to youths hoping to making a difference in their communities through inclusive STEMX education. It’s been absolutely fantastic to work with our chapters and see the initiative and leadership they take to bring STEM education to minority youths in their areas.
Q: What’s been the coolest part so far?
Archika: The coolest part about EduSTEM, without a doubt, has been being able to develop meaningful relationships with our participants over our workshops and camps. We’ve known some of our students for over two years and it’s been absolutely incredible to watch them grow and develop. What’s awesome is that we’re able to create both mentor-mentee relationships and friendships with our participants, getting to know them beyond just students, but as people. Our projects and workshops often highlight our participants’ passions, interests, and strengths, which gives us a chance to learn about their personalities and hobbies. It’s always sad to end a year of workshops, a camp, or an event, as it feels like you’re leaving not only a wonderful group of students, but some amazing friends.
Q: What are you looking forward to?
Archika: For EduSTEM, I’m looking forward to working hard on increasing expansion and being able to branch into new underserved communities. We’re also trying to increase our local outreach with two summer camps in Seattle, which I’m incredibly excited to plan! In my personal life, I’m looking forward to relaxing this summer and focusing on self-care. I’ll also be heading off to Panama for a little bit to work on some super exciting field research and community work.
Q: What advice do you have for other students who want to start an organization like this?
Archika: Give it your 100%! It can be easy to just give up sometimes, especially when you’re faced with unexpected obstacles. The more you overcome, the more fulfilling it is in the end. If you’re going to start an organization or project, you need to commit yourself to a cause beyond just yourself. I’ve often found myself traveling across the country on busy school weeks for my research or outreach, making things seem difficult and stressful sometimes. However, if you go into it with 100% of yourself, you won’t regret an ounce of the sacrifices you make.
Q: How can current students get involved?
Archika: We would love to have more students get involved! Follow this link for our chapter application on our website. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about starting an organization, getting involved, or anything else!
Archika’s work amazes me, and what’s even more incredible is how her leadership creates opportunities for others to lead in their own communities. Here’s their website link again if you’re interested in getting involved: https://www.edusteminitiative.org/
What’s so wonderful about meeting people like Archika is hearing what’s possible. Learning what others do teaches me more about what I’m capable of. Meeting the Apollo astronauts has absolutely done this for me, too, and how crazy is it that someone in high school can be so inspirational too? Archika’s doing amazing things– and so can we!
Archika Dogra is a high school junior from the Greater Seattle Area. She’s incredibly passionate about computer science, educational equity, and gender equality. She is part of the 2019 Mars Generation 24 under 24 Class, a 2019 Global Teen Leader, and a 2018 HERLead Fellow. She had the incredible opportunity to be a 2018 NASA SEES intern, where she had the chance to meet Katie! Along with research and teaching EduSTEM workshops, Archika enjoys playing softball, yoga, and traveling.