A letter to #GirlsinSTEM and youth activists

Dedication: To my mom, my biggest advocator, for always teaching me to do the right thing.

Growing up as a child raised by a single, immigrant mom, I have faced her my share of struggles navigating the resources and STEM curriculum. Every day in my home country, the inequality gap of being “unlucky,” living in circumstances you didn’t create and yet can’t control, is fervent. I have witnessed these inequalities all my life, from spotting a girl my age selling gum in the streets to seeing how the guys in my coding class would choose a boy over a girl because boys tend work with other boys. Being the only few girls in my class, I was a girl (literally) lost in STEM. As a skeptical child, I am always up to a new muse due to my love for learning. However, I dislike the idea of STEM, as it shifted away from my interest for art and a well-rounded mind.(I believe this is how God’s designed us: not as money-making machines but as articulated beings. Yet, I understand that a STEAM education can be rather expensive for the modern public school system). With the encouragement from my parents, I grew into an autodidact before I even knew its definition, from designing logos for my dad’s company to getting my own art studio organized by my mom.

However, for a while, I felt hopeless and stressed because of the overwhelming sights around me. There were times that I feel vulnerable for being considered as “leeching off others” to the point that I quit coding and volunteering. My imposter syndrome prevented me from getting good night sleeps, approaching friends, teachers, or classrooms, and shutting my real self. For the longest time, I hid away the innocent girl that likes to draw so much she doesn’t care about her critiques. However, this all changed when I began writing letters for children in orphanages and sat next to my crush. Just like Cinderella, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet my fairy Godmother- friends and family that support me when I started an initiative that write letters to orphans. I am propelled me remarkably to learn more than block coding to contribute to a project with my crush, an extremely talented coder. We would chat before classes, with him explaining to me about lightning circuits or analyzing my artworks. The ephemeral love never became anything more than a platonic relationship, but it’s blossomed my curiosity to combine art and technology. Last year, I also received good feedbacks from drawings that a group had made for us, along with pictures of them enjoying our letters. Personally, I was struck by a photo of a young girl, blind, touching a letter I wrote for her in order to read it. I hit it off from then, and keep writing letters or coding. I enjoyed small successes on my way, such as being chosen as a partnership coordinator for a STEAM girl magazine, being featured for my work with Paper Bridges, or landing an enrichment opportunity in biotechnology. I even came up with a business pitch to help teens explore the design field.

​When a girl’s interested in anything, her enchantment must be nurtured. When a girl wants to support a cause, as a society, mustn’t bash her idea. Because of my environment, despite of receiving comments like “You’re crazy” sometimes, I keep pushing because I know that there’s a small group of 1% of my circles that believe in me. Nonetheless, I don’t want to be an exception. Today, I am strong, confident, and feel purposeful. I love sharing my story because I, just like you, struggled to feel belong in a male-dominated field. There were times that I feel isolated and demoralized, but I learned that dreams are achievable. However, please be kinder and take care of yourself first.

Photo credit: Images courtesy of storyteller.

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I'm a high school junior with a strong passion for STEAM and youth advocacy. I am the ambassador for Teen Art Council at NCMA, a coding autodidact, and the founder Paper Bridges NC, an initiative that write letters to orphans. I love Boba tea, design website, and draw.