I have always loved math and science, so my educational and career path seemed clear. I graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in biology, chemistry and business and then worked in a research lab with a local biotech company. The work was interesting, but I felt something was missing.
I had financed my college studies partly by tutoring high school students in math and science. I enjoyed connecting with them and seeing that flash of excitement in their eyes when they understood difficult concepts. When I started part-time tutoring again, I decided—after some soul-searching—to pursue a master’s degree in education at Stanford University.
In 2010, I started working as a science teacher at El Camino High School in the South San Francisco Unified School District, where 40% of the 9,300 students are from families living in poverty and 65% of elementary students are English-language learners.
Young people are natural scientists because they are curious about the world around them. But the way science is being taught in classrooms today doesn't always successfully reach or engage students learning English for the first time. I knew more could be done. When Genentech invited me to join a brainstorming session focused on improving science education in South San Francisco, I was really hopeful for the possibilities. From that discussion emerged the Futurelab programme.
Hands-on science as an eye opener
Futurelab is driven by the enthusiasm and energy of over 1,300 Genentech employees who care about their local community. They volunteer as afterschool tutors in math and science, serve as chaperones on science field trips, and assist in the classroom in hands-on competitions that inspire students to apply scientific principles to the real world.
Thanks to the support of Genentech, Futurelab also includes two full college scholarships and the construction of a high-school biotechnology centre, called Science Garage, to open in 2017. I am excited to be part of this project and to have the opportunity to roll out a new biotech curriculum in Science Garage.
Making a difference, one student at a time
One student’s story is a great example of Futurelab’s impact. He and his family were recent immigrants to the United States. While he was bright and extremely interested in science—he wasn’t excelling in his science classes. He attended several hands-on science field trips at Genentech, where he had the opportunity to see science come to life in everyday work. These were transformative events for him. When I last bumped into him, he shared that he’s determined to attend college to study computer science. In fact, he is enrolled in our biotech class now.
I feel very lucky to be a part of Futurelab and witness its positive impact on students. It means the world to me as a teacher.