The Research Triangle Park

Reflections from my VISTA Year with STEM in the Park

By Jul 19, 2017

Everyone says to us “Wow! It seems like y’all started just yesterday.” That’s very true as the end of our VISTA year closes in. Where did the time go? One year really flew by and here are our reflections of the year!

Upon graduating from UNCG in December 2015, I found it necessary to take a gap year in preparation for my future goals. I thought to myself, what better way to spend this year than joining an AmeriCorps program for national service. That’s how I came across STEM in the Park (then US2020 RTP), a non-profit dedicated to increasing the percentages of underrepresented youth in the STEM workforce through multiple multi-faceted programs. I applied for Events and External Communications Lead and was granted the position.

In beginning my service year, things got busy right away as we prepared for our Fall expo. Mind you, with my Biology background, I had very little experience with designing software such as Photoshop, and I had also never planned an expo before! Nevertheless, it was the opportunity to grow and learn that made me appreciate this experience throughout the whole year. In less than 3 months, with the help of my team I planned a STEM expo! I designed a flyer, posters, enhanced my public speaking skills and performed numerous tasks that might have seemed impossible to me before. It was after the Fall Arts n’ STEM Expo that I gained more insight into the services STEM in the Park provided and why they conducted them. Students from low-income backgrounds and racial minorities who might have never personally interacted with a STEM professional in the field they desired to pursue got the chance to do so. The feedback was unsurprisingly inspiring!  Read more about my three month reflection here.

Before joining STEM in the Park, it has been my lifelong passion to pursue a career in medicine. My main motivation for that career choice has always been to improve the delivery and access of healthcare to the underrepresented population. STEM in the Park instilled in me another motivation- to become a mentor to the underrepresented youth to expose them to the numerous opportunities in STEM fields. These goals pushed me even further to be diligent in my medical school application process.  While in my service year, I completed my secondary applications, attended interviews, secured a plan B and finally an acceptance came my way! I got accepted into the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University!!!  I often find myself blinking twice to make myself believe this is actually a reality; it’s been a long way here.

As I move on from STEM in the Park, I am filled with nothing less than appreciation for this great opportunity to serve. My program manager Dr. Sarah Windsor (she was a Council when I met her but got married!! :D), Mr. Brett Brenton (Mr. Big Shots :P), Chichi (my frenemy :P), and the staff at the Research Triangle Park (I shall always remember the Christmas treat and miss staff meetings­­­) have all been a tremendous resource in helping me get this far in my service year. As Chinedum Orji once said, “We’re not sad we’re leaving, we are grateful we were given this opportunity.”