Opinions

Do I belong in STEM?

The field of science, technology, engineering and math as a whole is  crucial to our increasingly automated society. Yet, the industry seems less advertised to people of color, specifically African Americans. 

Growing up in the ghetto of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I experienced this firsthand.

Later my family moved to a more diverse and inclusive Long Beach, California, where the science, technology, engineering and math industry is more advertised and more accessible than ever, no matter what race you are. 

I have experienced various opportunities in STEM including Project Lead The Way, Robotics Club and the Long Beach Math Collaborative, which is a program that specifically prepares African American males in high school for college success.

I thought I was fully prepared for my collegiate computer science career, but I was wrong to say the very least.

Coming to Long Beach State as a freshman, I was confident in my abilities but quickly realized how I compared to my classmates and peers who were more experienced in programming.

Some of them took AP and advanced computer science courses, which my high school didn’t offer. One of them created programs that could track coronavirus cases on a national level, with new cases being counted daily. 

Another created a program that could detect pneumonia through x-ray images. Knowing this, I felt some form of imposter syndrome as I was still learning how to code in my courses. I felt as if learning to code was impossible, and I doubted my intelligence quite a bit the first week of school.

I felt defeated in my courses for a short while because of how inexperienced I was. However, I have been fortunate enough to join the National Society of Black Engineers which has granted me the opportunity to find community and mentorship with upperclassmen who assisted my development as a programmer.

I found a community of inclusivity where African American college students in various engineering fields could share their experiences.

I am grateful for these organizations and my professors which have been helpful in the transition from being high schooler to a computer science college student. They have provided resources and assistance during office hours that have been extremely helpful to my academic career at CSULB.

I still have a long way to go with computer science, but I have come a long way from my roots in Philadelphia, and have found a solid support system in a field that is predominantly white.

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