One Year of STEM Community Leaders!

The STEM Community Leaders (SCL) program is officially one year old! Last summer we launched our youth program engaging 19 participants grades 9-12 in immersive, STEM-based experiential learning opportunities directed towards the pursuit of post-secondary education and enhanced career aspirations.

This summer, we’ve focused on deepening our impact. For 7 weeks, 30 youth from 12 of our target communities visited local universities and institutions where they interacted with STEM professionals and engaged in hands-on experiences. These included:

  • Hands-on STEM workshops with Code Mobile and Ryerson University

  • Behind-the-scenes experiences at Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

  • Space-themed workshops at York University’s Astronomical Observatory and Dunlap Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at UofT

  • The Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program at UofT Engineering

  • A week-long immersion camp at The University of Toronto Mississauga including the Amgen Biotech Experience

To add to their busy schedules, many of the young leaders also took on additional roles in STEM fields including:

  • Data Analysis at University of Toronto Department of Chemistry

  • Communications at the University of Toronto Engineering Outreach

  • Facilitators in the Lay-Up Youth Basketball Camp

Throughout the summer (and entire first year of the program) youth have not only grown as leaders but have developed critical skills, built meaningful relationships and explored STEM in real-world job settings. It has been incredible watching them grow and we are excited to see them take their learning into STEM Clubs this fall - as Youth Facilitators!

A huge thank you to all our partners for making this summer possible - we appreciate you!

Participants of VoS STEM Community Leaders Program Win $5000 for the Charity

Nawaal Ali Sharif and Arefa Tafawa, two senior participants of the VoS STEM Community Leaders Program now have a new title: winners of The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI)!

Developed by the Toskan Foundation, the YPI program connects students in grades 9 & 10 to social issues impacting their community and the local charities that combat them. Nawaal and Arefa, both being 10th grade students, were connected to the opportunity as a project for their Careers and Civics class where they were asked to research a local charity. For these two youth who had been involved with VoS for many years- having begun as participants in the Community STEM Clubs program and grown into STEM Community Leaders- the choice was an easy one.

Why did you choose to profile Visions of Science in your presentation?

Nawaal: We picked Visions because of our personal connection to it. We’ve been a part of the program for so long- we began almost 4 years ago! We knew we wanted to give back for everything it has done for us. That was our goal.

Arefa: When our teacher asked us to pick an organization of our choice, we both instantly thought of Visions. We didn't even use our script for the presentation, we just spoke from the heart! We wanted to advocate for it.

What impact has the program had on you?

Nawaal: Where to begin! My personality has changed drastically. I used to be very shy. Public speaking was my nightmare. My confidence has really shot up since being a part of the organization. I gave a speech at the Visionary Gala and it was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done, but I had a huge sense of accomplishment after. I’m so happy I didn’t back down!

Arefa: When I first came to Visions, I was a shy little potato! I didn’t talk a lot, and I hated public speaking so much it would make me shake and stutter. Becoming a STEM Community Leader has really given me the confidence boost I needed. I've transformed from a shy potato to a crispy french fry!

What does the organization's mandate [empowering youth from low-income communities] mean to you?

Nawaal: It shows that people actually care and want to see you succeed. Being a part of that is truly amazing. It's really cool to see all of these kids become interested in science so fast.

Arefa: We actually demonstrated this in our YPI presentation, where we showed a balloon inflating in two different environments. In the first, the balloon would inflate quickly and very large whereas in the second it would inflate slowly and smaller. We wanted to symbolize that kids growing up in low-income communities face barriers that impact their growth. These kids really need something like Visions to show them that they can actually do it.

Can you tell us about someone who inspires you?

Nawaal: Eugenia! She’s the mentor I really needed. If I wanted to be an athlete, I would look at Serena Williams. If I wanted to be an actress, I would look at Viola Davis. I never had anyone to look up to in the STEM world- until Eugenia! She’s really helping us reach our potential.

Arefa: In Eugenia’s TEDx Talk, she said that there weren’t many scientists of colour and it was a struggle. I admire her for not only getting her PhD but also starting something to help kids do what she did. She didn’t give up along the way and she has so much faith in us!

Stay tuned on our social media to learn more about what Nawaal and Arefa are up to this summer as STEM Community Leaders, as well as their STEM summer jobs as leaders in our summer learning camps!

The 6th Annual Visionary Expo: A celebration of STEM learning!

On Saturday May 5th 2018, we celebrated our 6th annual year end event: the Visionary Expo at the Ontario Science Centre! A celebration of STEM learning, the event brought together 300 youth, 100 volunteers, and 75 Community members from 24 Community STEM Clubs across the GTHA!

The day began with opening remarks from CEO of the Ontario Science Centre, Dr. Maurice Bitran and a keynote speech from Ontario’s first Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly Shoichet. Youth even got to explore Dr. Shoichet's new Inner Space Exhibit and learn about the wonders of outer space!

The main event showcased youth learning in science-fair style presentations which youth delivered with their STEM Clubs. The 24 presentations including Air Vortex, Holograms, and The Science Behind Music truly reflected their hard work and dedication- the Rivertowne club even got to deliver a featured presentation in the Ontario Science Centre's Hot Zone! Finally, Six STEM Clubs took home top-category medals and all VoS participants walked away as graduates of the 2017/18 STEM Clubs Program!

A huge thank you to the Ontario Science Centre for hosting this event for the second year- we appreciate you! Thank you to Pizza Pizza for being sponsors of the event and to our major STEM Clubs supporters Toronto Community Housing, Amgen, Toronto Pearson International Airport and Ontario Trillium Foundation for making it possible! Lastly, a big thank you to our incredible team of over 100 volunteers who are on the ground being leaders- THANK YOU!

Photography by Amanda Lam

VoS Youth Tatyana Buntin Receives A Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award!

At only 18 years old, Tatyana Buntin is this year’s youngest Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award recipient being recognized for her commitment to developing underrepresented communities!

Tatyana began her journey with VoS over five years ago. As a STEM Community Leader and Youth Facilitator, Tatyana dedicates herself to working with youth and increasing STEM literacy in and outside of her community of Swansea Mews. As a youth facilitator in the Community STEM Clubs Program, Tatyana is a leader who engages youth weekly in hands-on STEM workshops— she is a beloved member of her community and well-loved by the youth with whom she volunteers!

Tatyana discovered volunteering as a homework club facilitator and manager of a computer skills training program. She has also helped run children’s recreational programs with Four Villages Community Health Centre. Through her diverse involvement in community programs and initiatives, Tatyana has worked with over 200 community members!

Congratulations on this achievement, Tatyana!

Photos 1-12 via Volunteer Toronto.

2018 Visionary Gala: A Night To Empower Youth

On March 09 2018, we hosted our third annual fundraising gala at the Daniels Spectrum in Toronto! Thanks to the support of over 290 attendees and event sponsors, we raised over $8000 towards our programs and initiatives!

Tashauna Reid, CBC Host and our MC for the evening kept the audience engaged and excited with her incredible enthusiasm! We would like to thank our keynote speaker Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Member of Parliament for Whitby for attending and delivering a passionate speech on the importance of challenging yourself and making an impact. VoS Youth also got to share their experiences by delivering heartfelt speeches. We felt truly inspired!

The captivating evening came to a close with an Awards Ceremony to recognize the exceptional facilitators who bring our vision to life every week! We also had the opportunity to present Toronto Community Housing and University of Toronto Engineering Outreach with the Outstanding Community Partner Award for their dedication and constant support. We greatly appreciate Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Brent Chamberlain, Ontario Trillium Foundation representative for attending and presenting us with plaques to recognize our seed and grow grants!

This Night to Empower Youth was a huge success thanks to all the speakers, donors, attendees, and incredible performers! We want to extend a huge thank you to our platinum sponsor Ryerson University SciXChange, our gold sponsor Crowe Soberman and our in-kind donors for their support! We appreciate your support- thank you for making The 3rd Annual Visionary Gala possible!

2nd Annual STEM Day: University of Toronto Mississauga!

On March 17, 2018 we held our second annual STEM Day at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). Over 150 youth from 11 Community STEM Clubs in the Peel and surrounding regions had the opportunity to explore STEM and learning at the university!

The day began with an interactive opening presentation by VP-Principal of UTM Dr. Ulrich Krull and remarks from Hillary Marshall, VP Stakeholder Relations and Communications at Toronto Pearson. Youth then had the opportunity to travel to different parts of campus and take part in engaging workshops held by UTM staff, faculty, and students to discover STEM at the university!

This year’s workshops included Shake The Earth: a hands-on experience exploring the science behind earthquakes, ‘Flashy Physics’ demos, and fossilization to name a few! Many youth even got to explore the nature trails around campus and take part in a bird-watching expedition.

The day concluded with thought-provoking remarks from Loretta Neebar, Registrar and Director of Enrollment Management at UTM on the significance of education. A HUGE thank you to our incredible workshop leaders for welcoming us into your labs and sharing your work! Thank you as well to University of Toronto Mississauga for their support and to our incredible speakers for making this event a success!

See ya next year, UTM!

In Conversation with the CEO

Dr. Eugenia Duodu, Executive Director and CEO of Visions of Science Network for Learning was recently invited to speak at a TEDxYouth event in Toronto. In her talk, she shares her journey of becoming "an unlikely scientist", what it was like growing up with few role models that looked like her and the crippling imposter syndrome that accompanied being underrepresented in the field of STEM.

“You’re a scientist? You don’t look like one!”

It was really hard to see myself as a scientist without having any representative role models to look up to or hear from. As I mentioned, I really enjoyed science but I didn’t have any point of reference to encourage my future participation. None of the traditional stereotypes of scientists fit in with who I was- a black woman (then girl) growing up in a low-income community. I definitely didn’t fit in with the common narrative, but I believe this is slowly changing.

What does it mean to you to be a black woman in STEM?

Being a black woman in STEM means many things to me. I love the fact that I get to bring my unique perspectives and experience to the field and make meaningful contributions. I am also highly aware of the various complexities that come with the intersectionality of my race and gender. Overall, what matters to me most is allowing myself to be seen so that I can be the representative role model that I never had but so desperately needed. I love being able to elevate the people around me in this way, it’s truly an honour.

What ultimately drew you to wanting to lead Visions of Science?

I could write an essay on this but I’ll keep it brief. The fundamental concept behind the work of Visions of Science was always a lofty goal for me growing up. As I became more engaged in STEM and received access to opportunities, the community-centered part of me always wondered how this might be extended to the people around me. I never really knew how it would happen but I knew that it needed to and that the work needed to come from within the community. I struggled with feeling empowered to even lead something like this because I was still navigating the system as a low-income youth myself. When I started with VoS and the opportunity came for me to lead it I really felt encouraged to continue because of the youth that we worked with and the team that we had. It was the undeniable potential in every facet of the organization what made me really know I had to be a part of it.

What do you want youth that participate in VoS programs to take away from their time here?

I want youth that participate in our programs to feel empowered to participate and succeed in any area that they decide to pursue. For me, empowerment isn’t only a term, it is intentional support that facilitates meaningful change. I want our youth to know that they can succeed and have the consistent support and access to do so. I also want our youth to be empowered to create solutions to address issues that they see affecting their community and the people around them. Our youth are full of great ideas, therefore they should have the space and confidence to put them into practice. I think it’s super cool that STEM learning can facilitate this kind of critical thinking and exploration and I want them to see that.

Watch Dr. Eugenia Duodu's TEDx Talk: 

2016/17 Annual Report!

We're kicking off the new year with our 2016/17 Annual Report! It has been an incredible year of growth at Visions of Science- over the last year, we launched a brand new youth program, published our very first article in a high-impact academic journal, and expanded our reach to new communities. A special thank you to our incredible partners and funders for supporting us and being a part of our growth! Thank you as well to our staff and volunteer teams for a great year!

Read the full 2016/17 Annual Report

 

STEM Community Leaders!

On July 11 2017, we launched our brand new STEM Community Leaders (SCL) program. The three year pilot program aims to extend the experience of the Community STEM Clubs program by engaging target youth in grades 8 to 12 in immersive STEM learning, leadership development, and community engagement.

We kicked off a 7-week summer term with 19 youth from 9 of our target communities- many of whom were past STEM club participants. Youth participated in engaging talks and workshops including:

  • Hands- on experiences at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Apple Canada, and the Inventorium at the Ontario Science Centre

  • A two-day immersion camp at The University of Toronto Mississauga

  • A two-week internship (The Harriet Brooks Internship) at Ryerson University

  • The Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program at UofT Engineering

  • Workshops at The Dunlap Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics as well as the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at The University of Toronto

Throughout the whole experience, the participants grew as leaders, developed long-lasting relationships, learned a lot about STEM fields and careers, and had an incredible time doing it! For the fall term, our leaders will be back in the Community STEM Clubs as Youth Facilitators- we can’t wait to see them in action!

More information about the STEM Community Leaders program will be coming soon.

A special thanks to all our partners who made this summer possible!

Note: there is not an open application process for this program at this time.