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STEM Story: Paridhi (Pari) Latawa

What inspired you to start/take part in this organization/initiative/activity?:

I was ​inspired by my personal experience with STEM education and the educational pathways taken for the community interested in science. While hosting numerous in-class health and science mentoring sessions for Title I elementary students, I realized how just basic support from high school students served the curiosity for elementary students from low-income families and stimulated their lifelong passion for learning. This realization took a step further when I visited schools in low socioeconomic areas in North India, where students who didn’t have many sources of motivation and had numerous factors working against their education still wanted to attend college or at least a Community College so they could get a decent job and help their families. I noticed that many aspiring students missed timely exposure to many interdisciplinary fields of science due to a lack of guidance and role models. This sparked me to bring a plethora of knowledge and information to these students.

What is the mission of your organization/initiative/activity?:

SparkED equips youth with resources to educate, empower, and enable them to make informed decisions about their career and life. This is achieved by speaker series, tech literacy camps, mentoring, tutoring, partnerships, & summits. Our vision is to achieve greater knowledge and awareness of education & STEM as well as the many possibilities it encompasses through networking opportunities and mentors for all youth interested in exploring their options.

What do you do within your organization/initiative/activity?:

We host speaker series, tech literacy camps, mentoring, tutoring, partnerships, & summits. So far, we’ve hosted talks by scientists & professors where personal & career experiences are shared. We have partnered to host tech literacy camps to mothers from low-income families as a way to help the entire household. We facilitated high school science programs by universities in Austin for students who can’t afford to travel as a form of personalized guidance.

How did you start your organization/initiative/activity?:

I started my organization locally at first as I hosted events with a team from my school in Austin, Texas in 2019. For the past couple of months, we have been leveraging current digitalization to expand our reach and horizon. We have a team of leaders and members from across the globe and we hope to continue expanding on that front.

What are your future plans for your organization/initiative/activity?:

Moving forward, I want SparkED to establish an annual conference for students with panels of STEM speakers, mini labs, partner organizations, & other teen leaders. This annual conference will be an admirable series of events aimed to inspire youth, particularly low-income, in exploring possibilities in education to better our world. Additionally, we want to open more chapters & create more global summits in addition to continuing the series in India. I additionally want SparkED to increase partnerships to spread the social cause of education.

What activities have you done to benefit those that are impacted by this organization?:

We have hosted various speaker series events & tech literacy camps, offer various tutoring and mentoring services, and summits/workshops for students. We hope to continue and expand our level of community service.

What do you hope to be doing when you are older?

I hope to be exploring genomics and bioinformatics. I vision myself not only as a scientist but also as an advocate for scientific literacy and engagement with education for underrepresented students. Going forward, I want to dedicate my whole life to exploring scientific principles alongside utilizing social activism as a platform to help others.

How has this organization/initiative/activity shaped your life?:

I have found a niche within the scientific community and grown a lot as a leader. By educating and connecting people with resources, I have learned that aside from harnessing scientific knowledge, it is crucial to share it further to increase scientific literacy.

Interviewed by: Yuktee Srikant

Graphic by: Jasmine Sun

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