Young Leaders in Action Series: Stephanie Chan
May 24, 2012
Having two science degrees myself, I know how much of a conversation killer it is when you tell people you studied “science”. But believe it or not, there are youth out there who want to change that perception. Two years ago, 5 high school students came together to start the Science Expo Youth Empowerment Group, a non-profit, youth-run organization that aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities to Canadian youth. They want to inspire students to become more engaged in extracurricular STEM activities, and to provide them with the resources to do so.
Over 100 delegates, exhibitors, and speakers attended their third annual Science Expo at the Ontario Science Centre this past Winter, which included notable speakers such as Dr. Brad Bass, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (wow!). They also brought big sponsors on board such as the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Seneca College, University of Waterloo, and Perimeter Institute. It just goes to show you that age is but a number.
One of the founding members, Stephanie Chan, is now a second year Queen's University student studying Life Sciences. We asked her to share her insights with us, and this is what she had to say.
Charity Republic: What most inspires you to make this world a better place?
Stephanie: The fact that I can make a tangible impact on the lives of others is what most inspires me to make this world a better place. Even when things get rough and hectic, I continue my work with Science Expo because of delegate feedback. I am inspired to keep on going when they tell me how they were motivated to pursue more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities because of the knowledge they gained at Science Expo conferences.
Charity Republic: What motivated you to start Science Expo?
Stephanie: My high school was very small. As a result I went through the first year and a half of high school totally unaware of the opportunities that lay beyond the four walls of my classroom, and my sole goal was to get good grades in order to get into a good university. I pushed myself to excel in my studies, and was rewarded in Grade 10 with the opportunity to attend the 2009 Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in Winnipeg.
CWSF 2009 was an event that would change my life and open my eyes to the many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities that were available. It was also the event that led me to meet the group of people who would later become the founding team of Science Expo. Surrounded by some of the brightest minds in Canada, we were inspired by the energy of so many science enthusiasts. The lack of interest in the sciences in the general population of high school students and their ignorance of the many opportunities available to them was what motivated us to start Science Expo.
Charity Republic: Why is it important for you to make a difference in this world?
Stephanie: It is only in retrospect that I realize and appreciate how much of an impact my high school STEM experiences have had on me; I feel that it is extremely important for youth to experience the same opportunities. Through my participation in Canada Wide Science Fairs and Shad Valley, I had the chance to travel to new places, to strengthen my skills, and most of all, to develop an incredible network of friends, many of whom have become my second family. Furthermore, I learned a great deal about myself and my passions and interests. By empowering students to become more engaged in STEM activities, I hope to share the joy and excitement that I experienced in my STEM activities to younger students very much like myself.
Charity Republic: What are you most passionate about?
Stephanie: I am passionate about many things, from science to music to entrepreneurship. My love of science has led me to pursue a career in healthcare, while my love of music saw me logging many hours in front of my piano before my ARCT exam. However, what I am most passionate about are ideas. The endless possibilities that can arise from the human mind are astonishing. I was recently at a conference celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship, and I was blown away by some of the ideas that were presented. I love to imagine the things that could be, and then have the ability to bring them to life.
Charity Republic: What advice do you have for young people your age?
Stephanie: My advice would be to remember that while grades are important for school, they are NOT EVERYTHING; although I still have trouble remembering this at times, I believe that taking risks and not being afraid to stray from the well-travelled path are more important. Now might be the time to develop a new science fair project or go on a volunteering trip abroad - find out what opportunities are out there for you! In the end, I believe that the friends you make and the experiences that you undergo are what you will remember most from high school and university.
Charity Republic: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Stephanie: I hope to pursue a degree in medicine after my undergraduate studies, so right now I see myself working towards my M.D. in 5 years. However, the more I venture into the world of business and entrepreneurship, the more appealing I find it to be! In the future, I hope to combine these two interests as a researcher in the health science field with my own company designing innovative healthcare products.
Yours in volunteering,
Founder, Charity Republic
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