By Krystin Ventura
COPUS member and Founder & Executive Director of SEM Link (Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Link, Inc.) Tokiwa Smith is an expert in science education and outreach. She’s been organizing SEM Link’s signature STEM Career Fair for over 10 years in Atlanta, Georgia, and is expanding SEM Link’s influence each year. Last weekend, SEM Link held their second annual STEM Career Fair in Washington, DC, where over 100 attendees from the community were able to engage with hands-on science exhibits and meet STEM professionals from a variety of fields.
Tokiwa was motivated to start organizing these career fairs as a way to address the lack of hands-on STEM activities in many communities. She believes that the best way to positively influence the next generation of scientists is to illustrate the diversity of career opportunities in STEM to K-12 students and their parents. She says, “I wanted to create a space for parents to be a part of the STEM Career Exploration process for their children by having an event that they can bring their kids to and engage in hands on STEM activities together.”
In addition, she ensures that students who attend a SEM Link event will be able to interact with a diverse ensemble of exhibitors and presenters. “As an African American woman, I want to make sure that kids that look like me are able to take advantage of these types of opportunities,” she says.
New for this year in DC, Tokiwa graciously invited the COPUS member network to join in and table at the event. Representatives from the SF Bay Area COPUS hub (Monica Albe, Krystin Ventura, Yennie Shyu, and Layla Chamberlin) were excited to participate and had a wonderful time meeting all the kids and their families that day and showing them a little bit about cell biology. They are looking forward to next year already!
In the future, SEM Link is hoping to see STEM career fairs expand to other communities in the nation. Tokiwa is the author of A Guide to Hosting STEM Events, a resource she recommends to anyone interested in coordinating a STEM outreach event.
To help SEM Link connect even more students to STEM career fairs, make a financial contribution to the “Donate Your Lunch Money” Individual Donor Campaign.
“Science is Awesome. That is all.” t-shirt design by COPUS member David Ng.