By Sunny Liu
Serena Jing is the first recipient of the SASE Jr Scholarship. She is from St.Paul, Minnesota and a recent graduate from Central High School. In the fall, she will be attending Stanford University to study bioengineering.
In 2016, Serena received an email from one of her teachers, who was contacted by the SASE - University of Minnesota chapter, and immediately considered SASE Jr as a great opportunity to merge college STEM mentorship with her high school. I was curious how a 17 year old high school student understood the meaning and value of mentorship and asked Serena to share her story with me.
How did Serena start her journey in SASE Jr?
Prior to her senior year, Serena had worked in two STEM-related research labs at the University of Minnesota. Her mentors from the lab passionately taught her the technical skills she needed and passed research knowledge onto her. The practice of mentorship not only helped her reduce the nervousness of the unknown, but also significantly motivated her to explore STEM in a professional setting in the real world.
Additionally, Serena shared some of the problems she noticed at her high school. While she had great interests in science and engineering, she struggled to find a community that shared this passion at Central High School. In the clubs she joined at school, she was typically one of the few, if not the only, females of color. The lack of diversity she observed showed the reality of the severe under-representation of different cultural group within STEM professional fields.
How did SASE Jr impact Central High School?
Serena realized that the root of the problem was not that students in Central High School were simply not interested in STEM, but that there were not significant encouragement and opportunities in STEM fields available to those groups in the first place.
SASE Jr provides more visibility for high school students to understand what STEM is in a professional setting, not just the formulated concepts in the classroom. After a year of being established at Central High School, there is an increased amount of students with an interest in the STEM field.
How will the SASE Jr Scholarship support Serena?
While the SASE Jr Scholarship will relieve some of the burden of her college expenses, it will most importantly enable Serena to continue building her SASE network in her college community. The scholarship recognizes her strengths and previous accomplishments with SASE Jr and supports her in expanding the influence of SASE Jr to local high school communities. Just like she once benefitted from the opportunities that SASE Jr provided, Serena can now serve as the source of encouragement and information about new opportunities for a new generation of SASE Jr!
SASE Jr is a SASE national community service and STEM outreach group. Our mission is to support high school students in their discovery and integration into the STEM field. SASE Jr chapters are established at high schools and work with a sponsoring collegiate chapter to host events such as hands-on STEM career exploration, workshops, and speakers for their members. SASE Jr chapters also partner with SASE collegiate-affiliated universities and SASE professional alumni to ensure students are poised for success through structured mentorship programs. Our aim is to help SASE Jr members understand what opportunities are available in STEM, gain experience, and become future young leaders through continued activity in collegiate and professional SASE chapters.
SASE Jr is currently only offered at select high schools, supported by a collegiate SASE chapter. If you’re interested in learning more about SASE Jr and bringing a chapter to your local high school, please email sase.jr(at)saseconnect.org for more information!