‘Uncovering Hidden Pathways’ focuses on future minority youth in STEM

Jaleesa Trapp, a University of Wash­ington graduate, hosted “Uncovering Hidden Pathways” at UW Tacoma on Jan. 28 from 4–5 p.m., which discussed anti-racist approaches for engaging in marginalized groups within STEM — standing for science, technology, engi­neering and math.

Trapp is an educator, activist, and researcher at the Massachusetts Institu­tion of Technology Media Lab, and also works with Girls Who Code, Tacoma Action Collective and the Tacoma Club­house. Trapp discussion focused on how vital it is for non-dominant youth to have access to STEM, and how the word “non-dominant” directly ad­dressed power structures.

“When we talk about racism, we’re talking about a power structure,” Trapp said. When we’re talking underserved, we’re talking about power structure. Marginalized, a power structure. When I use non-dominant, that’s what I’m talking about.”

Trapp began by discussing intersec­tionality, defining it as, “A theory that systems of discrimination or disadvan­tage are interdependent.” Trapp went on to clarify the theory of intersection­ality with attendees.

“What that means is that they over­lap, they do not exist as separate sys­tems,” Trapp said. “When we’re talking about intersectionality we’re talking about interdependent systems working at the same time.”

She explained how important this theory was, especially for equity in STEM and anti-racist pedagogy.

“[When] we talk about equity in STEM, we don’t talk about poverty, we don’t talk about affordable housing, we don’t talk about economics,” Trapp said. “There’s a lot of different systems. We don’t talk about violence. All those sys­tems are working at the same time and those all need to be acknowledged.”

Trapp also discussed the “4 P’s of Creative Learning” by Mitchel Resn­ick, her advisor at the MIT Media Lab. The purpose of the four p’s — which are projects, passion, peers and play — is to define that one will work harder and spend longer on a project that is significant to them. Especially when one works with their peers, then it will be work they enjoy, which de­fines the “play”.

Trapp also highlighted the impor­tance of students having connections in the STEM field, as she herself struggled at the beginning of her college career.

“If you don’t know anybody in your social network who has a career in STEM, how are you supposed to learn these things?” Trapp asked. “My parents didn’t have a career in STEM and it’s not enough just to do these activities in school and work on these projects and then say ‘go into the world, now you can be an engineer’ because when I got to college I struggled.”

Trapp credited the ClubHouse Net­work and the Technology Access Foun­dation — programs that aid students in receiving internships — for her success in the STEM field, encouraging students to seek the same or similar programs. She also cited the Computer Clubhouse, which values underserved students in­terested in this field, as a program that played a key role in her life, and for the STEM student community.

“They actually give the tools to the youth and allow them to explore them,” Trapp said. “When I talk about con­structionism and that type of project based learning, what I’m talking about is a power shift in giving youth this power that they don’t normally have … If it wasn’t for the clubhouse there is no way I would be here right now.”

As a teacher, Trapp created a cur­riculum where students could work on projects that are significant to them, and that they will actually enjoy. An example she shared was how she let one of her students work on a project about shoes.

“The next day he came back and showed me his website that had so many features that we hadn’t even covered in class,” Trapp said. “He was so excited to work on something that was so rel­evant to him.”

Trapp’s curriculum made the stu­dent feel dedicated to his work, and gave him the motivation to work on his project at home, despite Trapp not giv­ing her students homework — some­thing she practices because she under­stands not all students have access to computers in their homes.

Trapp concluded her discussion by emphasizing the power of activism, such as being able to coordinate events with the help of others. Trapp shared an example of her own — when she and her friends organized trips to movie theatres for high school and college girls to see films, providing young women of color a place of inclusivity in the com­munity. Once the event had been post­ed on Facebook, many contributed by donating, allowing over 50 girls to at­tend the movies..

“That took the whole community,” Trapp said. “I just said ‘we’re doing this’ and the community showed up.”

As Trapp’s discussion came to an end, a picture of the girls at the movie theatre appeared on the screen behind, holding a big sign that read, “Black Girls Matter.”