3 Ways to Inspire Future STEM Leaders

Making a positive impact on your community is easy, inexpensive, and fun! Learn how to inspire youth in your community to pursue STEM careers by going to the movies.

As a Salesforce Developer, making a positive impact on your community is easy, inexpensive, and fun! It all starts with a night out at the movies—not just any movie—an Oscar®-nominated film that’s been singlehandedly making STEM cool again for girls, women, people of color, and pretty much anyone who can relate to startling inequality when it comes to pursuing their dreams.

Victoria Pannell (center) organized 100 homeless youth in Harlem to see Hidden Figures; Jacalyn Chapman (left) and Nevea Van Wright (right) from Salesforce shared their stories

In five locations over the past two months, the Salesforce community has paved a path toward equality in STEM for underrepresented youth by inviting them to see Hidden Figuresthe story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

Krystal Carter started it all when she organized Tech Me to the Movies, an inspiring evening for 40 girls (ages 13–18) in Houston, Texas. A few tweets later, STEM events were popping up all over. You can replicate this success in your community. Let’s break down how.

How to create your own event

Movie Night

  • What to do: Partner with a local school or youth organization. How many students can they chaperone to attend? 40? 100? 400? Great! Rent out a theater (or two) and invite them. That’s it. Magic will happen.
  • Budget: I’ve seen $12 to $17 per person. Depends on the theater (you’ll be amazed how cheap popcorn and soda are when you buy them in bulk!).
  • Lessons: Let the experts do the organizing. School and youth organizations know how to move 100 youth from point A to point B safely. I don’t! Liz Balsam worked with Everett Middle School in San Francisco to take the entire 6th and 7th-grade classes (400 students!). 17-year-old community organizer Victoria Pannell invited 100 homeless youth and their families in Harlem, NY. In Chelsea, NY, English teacher Eileen McGoldrick took 40 High School of Fashion Industries sophomores who were studying feminism.

Movie Night + Local Role Models

Tech panel in Phoenix organized by Paula Nelson & Rachel Watson and moderated by Jessica Murphy: (from left to right) Jeremy Whiteley, Sam Bellach, Marie Cunningham, Ceré Netters

  • What to do: Add some current “hidden figures” to the mix by inviting local tech leaders to share their stories, advice, and encouragement. Because “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Invite an engineer to attend the movie and informally chat with youth afterward, organize a formal panel of multiple speakers after the movie, or schedule a single guest speaker after the event at the school or shelter.
  • Budget: $50/per panelist for a thank-you gift. Salesforce community members Jeremy Whiteley and Stephanie Herrera donated their time as panelists. Jeremy is sporting a brand new Trailblazer hoodie for his time speaking with youth from One N Ten in Phoenix, and Stephanie has a beautiful handwritten thank-you plaque (with actual formulas from the movie on it!) from Tech Me to the Movies in Houston.
  • Lessons: Have a few planned questions for the moderator and time for Q&A. Introduce panelists before the movie so students have time to think about their questions.

Movie Night + Local Role Models + Training

Organizer Krystal Carter (left) and panelist Stephanie Herrera (right) at Tech Me to the Movies in Houston

  • What to do: Once students are inspired to explore STEM, keep that flame alive with skills training. Challenge the students to take a Girl Develop It class (if they’re over 18) to learn web development or join a #Trailhead4All workshop to learn Salesforce. #Trailhead4All workshops are community-hosted events that use Trailhead, the fun way to learn Salesforce, to teach highly sought after skills to the public.
  • Budget: Girl Develop It classes run around $10/hr and are open to all genders. Consider adding a sponsorship for classes as part of your event. Or run a #Trailhead4All event yourself—cost includes space (many tech companies will donate their space for free) and food (again, ask around to see if companies will donate).
  • Lessons: Have a follow-up plan. Keep in touch with the students, and create opportunities to continue learning. Lack of a computer or lack of access to a computer may be a blocker. When you are asking those tech companies for space and food, ask if they will donate laptops too!

Wait, how can I pay for this?

  • Give back. Take a page out of the Salesforce 1:1:1 model and create an event that fits into your personal philanthropy budget.
  • Ask your company. Show an executive this article. Explain how the company can make a huge impact for the cost of taking the department out for drinks on a Friday night.
  • Crowdsource it. Corinne Warnshuis put the word out on Twitter, and multiple people funded 5 tickets each for Camp Sojourner’s girls to see Hidden Figures in Philadelphia.

Your impact

Who knows? Years from now, someone you invite may be asked, “When did you decide to be an engineer/astronaut/mathematician?” and they’ll answer, “In 2017, when I saw Hidden Figures!”

Take that first step.

Looking for other ways to be an equality champion? Check out the Equality Ally Strategies module in Trailhead.

Hear how our community is giving back via #Trailhead4All in this Salesforce Admins podcast: Be a Change Maker with Shonnah Hughes, Selina Suarez & Rakia Finley.

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3 Ways to Inspire Future STEM Leaders