Under-served communities deserve opportunity equality

by: Claire Follis

Something that has driven me in the past four years, and will continue to drive me through my adult life, is equality in education. I am a passionate believer that through public schooling, all children should receive the same quality of education and opportunity. This ideal has motivated countless hours of research, volunteer work, and brainstorming on how to bring opportunities to students in areas where education is underfunded. My sophomore year this lead me to MakerGirl.

This past year, I was promoted to academies manager, the position I've dreamed about since first entering the nonprofit. My responsibility is bringing MakerGirl to other schools around the country, so that they can in turn bring resources to girls in the surrounding areas. This is a part of my life that excites me daily, and this summer I get to personally experience the joy of bringing resources to underfunded communities all across the east coast with our 3D printing road trip. Through MakerGirl, I get to bring STEM opportunity to girls not only in Urbana-Champaign, but across the country. I have the opportunity to not only inspire others to do so, but personally bring resources to the communities that I am passionate about serving.

Bringing STEM to communities who don’t have these resources is important not only because of the learning aspect, but on a societal level it can potentially interest a student enough to break the poverty cycle that commonly occurs in lower income communities. Underfunded education leads to the racial inequality that continues to be prevalent in the systems of this country.

“It’s important to look at how students are impacted in their K-12 education because it reflects on how education inequality effects America as whole. The overwhelming consensus of the courts that have considered the question is that there is a definite correlation between educational expenditures and educational quality.”

— Michael A. Rebell, “The Courts’ Consensus: Money Does Matter for Educational Opportunity “

Children who live in a low-income community will most likely go to an underfunded school, and therefore have less resources or opportunities than their peers just miles away. Bringing STEM resources to these communities shows them that they are allowed to have interest in STEM careers, they are represented in the STEM community, and even more, that the STEM community and academia want them. Students who are introduced to STEM at an early age are more likely to be able to thrive in the subjects through high school, and potentially higher education. In addition to developing an interest and knowledge base for STEM and enhanced inquiry skills, experts say that science instruction improves abilities in subjects outside of STEM, including literacy, language-learning, math, and executive functioning. However, if they lack the resources in their schools, they are again being deprived of an asset that better funded schools can provide. Equality in education is so important and even though society continually shows it’s low-income students that they are not deserving of it, it does not limit their ability to thrive and become successful scientists, teachers, businessmen, artists, or programmers. MakerGirl bringing its STEM resources to these communities will hopefully spark that idea of being a change maker in their community, and telling them that they can be whatever they want to be regardless of the amount of funding in their school. This is why I am excited everyday by the work that MakerGirl does, and why I believe that it is incredibly important to bring STEM to communities.

Check out this article that explores why STEM education should begin in early childhood education.