Black and Latina women comprise 15 percent of the population, yet hold only 4 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs, the fastest growing career track in the United States. Yamilee Touissant, today’s Daily Point of Light Award winner, started her organization, STEM From Dance, to combat this reality. She works with New York City high school girls of color to prepare them academically in math, and to give them hands-on experience with being an engineer and other STEM careers while building their confidence through dance. In addition to working directly with girls, Touissant oversees operations, strategic direction, fundraising and program design.
STEM From Dance uses dance—a confidence-building and culturally-relevant strategy—to grow the number of low-income, minority girls with science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Most of these girls don’t dream of being scientists or engineers. Not because they can’t, but because of a lack of confidence, preparation and awareness of STEM careers. The organization provides them with high-quality math tutoring, exposure to STEM and a dance curriculum designed to build the confidence needed to obtain a STEM degree.
Over the next 10 years, STEM job growth will outpace non-STEM jobs. Moreover, the annual starting salaries for STEM jobs average $70,000, double the median income for Black/Latino families.
Says Touissant, “As a dancer, educator and MIT engineer, this is my passion and I have what it takes to get students there.” A high school teacher in a low-income neighborhood, Touissant has impacted more than 200 students through teaching algebra. She has improved her students' math performance, increased their self-esteem, and opened their eyes to STEM careers by building robots together and by visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her alma mater.
Touissant believes in her innovative use of dance as a vehicle to make STEM a reality for low-income communities. She chooses to dance because girls of color are often drawn towards music and dance, “I took something that communities connect to (dance) to deliver something that historically they have not had access to (STEM).”
Do you know someone who has found a unique and innovative way to affect change in their community? Nominate them for a Daily Point of Light Award!