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Dieuwertje Kast

STEM Programs Manager for the University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project

And - Recognised, Forbes 30 under 30, Science

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Figure out what you want to do and find a mentor and network in that field to support you. Reach out. We are here to support you, we are here for you.

What do you do?

I run K-12 STEM education programs for low-income students in Los Angeles. I work with hundreds in partnership with hundreds of classroom teachers to supplement science instruction. I create hands-on, inquiry-based and standard aligned STEM curriculum to share with thousands of low-income students of color to prepare them to be the next generation of scientists. Through my efforts, I have provided STEM instruction to over 23,000 underrepresented minority students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, 600 educators, 20 school principals, and countless community members. I coordinate STEM programming for K-5 students across a gamut of schools through the Wonderkids and Young Scientists Programs. I teach science classes to high school students through USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), a college preparatory program for low-income youth. I have presented dozens of STEM and NGSS-based professional development sessions to pre-service and in-service educators both in schools and at local, national and international conferences.

Why did you choose this field?

I was originally in ocean education with a team of amazing mentors: Linda Chilton, Lynn Whitley, Lorraine Sadler, Terri Bidle and more. As much as I loved ocean education, I realized it was too niche for me so I pursued a Master's degree in Teaching with a single subject science teaching credential and moved forward to pursue STEM education instead. My family especially my dad (a cancer researcher) encouraged me to pursue STEM careers and all my lived experience led me to be a STEM educator.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

In 2016 I was the recipient of the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 in Science and the 30 under 30 in Environmental Education from the North American Association for Environmental Education for my community work in STEM in leveling the playing field in STEM for thousands of low-income students of color. My mission is to level the playing field for underserved students in STEM by facilitating programming that will create a more diverse generation of scientists and a more scientifically literate population. I wish younger me knew about all the travel STEM-based experiences that are available high school students, college students, and more.

Why do you love working in STEM?

STEM explains how the world works. While STEM has issues of equity and access, it can be an equalizer and can work to level the playing field for low-income students. When I wake-up, I look forward to working with my amazing team of science educators. I love their passion, dedication, and creativity they bring to the table every day.

Best advice for next generation?

Figure out what you want to do and find a mentor and network in that field to support you. Reach out. We are here to support you, we are here for you.

Inspo quote / fun fact

This passion for STEM education is reflected not only in my work but also with my science-themed wardrobe that I wear to all my teaching and community events.