Aja Capel of Urbana, Illinois is a 4-H teen leader who is also the founder of See Me in STEM, an organization whose mission is to introduce young people of color to science, technology, engineering, and math. "4-H Inspires Kids to Do" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with the 4-H Organization.
4-H Inspires Kids to Do – Aja Capel
AJA CAPEL, See Me in STEM: My name is Aja Capel, and I'm from Urbana, Illinois. I've been interested in science and engineering really my whole life, ever since I was about four. Ever since I had learned how to use a screwdriver, it was, "let's take this apart, and let's take that apart, and what happens when this happens?"
So I ended up with the Orpheum Children's Science Museum because my parents didn't want me to take the house apart. So they sent me there, every Saturday in the fall and the spring, to go take other people's stuff apart. I got started in 4-H when I first met my first mentor at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum actually, because I wanted to start a competitive robotics team through the museum one year.
one of the parents that was at that meeting was Alvarez, he approached me and told me about this thing called a SPIN club, which is a special interest club. And he said that he would help me kind of start my own and help me start a robotics team if I wanted to. He pretty much handed me a key to a door and said, "Here's this key, but you have to be the one to step through the door. And it's going to take you to great places. But it's up to you to open it and step through."
I started my own organization called See Me In STEM. And the purpose of my organization is to go around and teach minorities and minority girls that they can do whatever they want to do, especially if it's in STEM.
Growing up, I didn't see anybody who looked like me. I didn't see any women of color in STEM. And I didn't really see a lot of people of color in STEM. And that's why I called my organization See Me In STEM, so that I can be one of the few people that's seen in STEM, as an inspiration to others.
4-H really helped me find target audiences of minority kids. they opened a lot of the doors that taught me the leadership skills and how to teach, and how to get kids' attention when they don't want to pay attention to what you have to do, and how to make things more hands-on and interesting, so that it doesn't seem like you're lecturing them. So I participated in last year's National Youth Science Day which was "Code Your World." So I went around and targeted as many underrepresented youth as I could to expose them and teach them basic computer programming through Scratch.
The people I work with mainly would be Keith Jacobs Jr, and Alvarez Dixon. They're both great. They're both a lot of fun, and they've both opened a lot of doors for me to be able to do what I'm able to do today.
KEITH JACOBS, 4-H STEM Specialist: My name is Keith Jacobs. I am the STEM specialist for Illinois Extension, or Illinois 4-H. I serve almost as an advisory type of role with that, so just kind of telling her, "Well, this is kind of how you go about doing it."
I just kind of enhanced what she was already doing naturally.
CAPEL: I like to teach because, the result would be the smile that it brings in the end. And getting to see that I was able to make a difference in someone's life and teach them something new.
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