How One Teacher Is Bringing STEM to Life for Underrepresented Students

Mia DeLaRosa was an “other.” A young girl born to a Hispanic, single teenage mom. She spent her formative years growing up in a gang-infested area in Chicago, IL., an area where there was very little chance for minority students to finish high school or go on to college. She was homeless for a short period of time, and she moved…a lot. For Mia, STEM wasn’t a word used around the dinner table.

But there’s one other thing you should know about Mia. She’s driven. At a very young age, she dedicated herself to school. Even with all of the obstacles thrown her way, she was able to develop a passion for science, engineering, and math. At one point, she even dreamed of becoming an architect. But when you’re low on mentorship, and even lower on financial support, those dreams can quickly be shattered.

Remember that part about her being driven? Well…over the next decade she balanced three part-time jobs while taking one class at a time and finally earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arizona State University. Although Mia never wanted to be a teacher based on her negative experiences growing up in the school system as a minority, this was her chance to change things. And change them she did.

Mia works as a STEM educator at Sevilla Elementary School West in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to a partnership with General Motors, she was able to bring SAE’s A World In Motion STEM education program to her school. What started in September 2017 as a small pilot program for in September 2017 quickly expanded to approximately 150 students in grades 5-8 experiencing AWIM at Sevilla West. Their dedication has enabled their program to get better and better each year.

“With the perfect recipe, A World In Motion can actually transform what it means for unrepresented kids like me to do STEM. And more importantly what it means for them to internalize the power of engineering as a way to improve the world around them.”

AWIM means access to transformative STEM experiences. Through the program, Sevilla West’s young scholars were invited to Barrett Jackson Auto Auction where they met Grand Canyon University and AWIM alumnus Cory Cathrea who was there with his Canyon Motor Sports team from Grand Canyon University. Cory also soon became a classroom volunteer, where he helped recruit over 25 others to work directly with Mia’s STEM students.

“For unrepresented youth who do not see themselves in STEM, one of the most transformative things can be seeing someone who looks like you, who is young and hip like you, who speaks a language like you. When a sixth grader looks at a volunteer and says, “She’s an engineer? She’s so cool!” you can’t unring that bell!”

Mia may not have set out to be a teacher, but luckily for her students, her passion for STEM as a young girl is what ultimately brought her to Sevilla West where she is empowering the next generation of changemakers.

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