Visions of Science stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity for youth, particularly those from underrepresented communities, striving to bridge the gap of inequity in science, technology, engineering, and math education. Founded with a mission to transform communities through equitable access to STEM education, the organization has made a substantial impact since its inception.
Interac is a proud supporter of Visions of Science, and this spotlight is part of a series where we profile organizations making a positive impact in our communities. Through community investment efforts, we have helped Visons of Science expand their team, double down on their impact, and implement programs tailored to the unique needs of various communities.
Built with a sincere commitment to making a difference
Visions of Science was born out of a desire to make a difference in communities where representation and access to STEM education were lacking. Turfah Tabish, Chief Operating Officer, was drawn to the organization’s authenticity, rooted in community representation. When pitching this program to parents, she emphasizes the direct impact of Visions of Science, which aims to amplify the strengths of underrepresented youth. Tammy Ebuen, the Senior Director of Development, witnessed the impact of the lack of programming in her upbringing and wanted to give back to her community. Both found common ground in the organization’s community-centred, equitable approach and passion for STEM education and are focused on expanding the reach of their programs to broaden the impact they make.
Focused on programming for Black and racialized youth, often underrepresented in STEM, the organization serves a diverse age range from 8 to 25 across the Greater Toronto Area. Their comprehensive and long-term programming strategically supports youth at pivotal developmental stages, inspiring them early on, providing intentional subject support, exposing them to career opportunities in high school, guiding university applications, securing scholarships, and fostering connections to internships and jobs throughout university. Their programs aim to shape a more inclusive field by actively involving these youth in STEM conversations. The organization works to overcome obstacles in the education system so that everyone’s perspectives are acknowledged and valued. Programming is deeply rooted in community, culturally relevant, and community-centered approaches.
Addressing challenges in STEM education to advance equity
The primary hurdle faced by young individuals aspiring to pursue careers in STEM lies in the limited awareness of the possibilities within these fields. With a clear understanding of the potential applications of a STEM degree, it becomes easier for youth to commit wholeheartedly to these disciplines. Exposure is crucial, especially considering many people, particularly youth, need more insight into STEM’s diverse opportunities beyond traditional professions like medicine. For instance, fields that blend science and technology often go unnoticed.
Another major challenge lies in how professional networks can heavily influence career trajectories. Tammy and Turfah shared that underserved communities may face restricted networks, hindering exposure to diverse STEM fields. Representation plays a pivotal role; when young individuals see relatable figures excelling in STEM, it fuels their aspirations and confidence. This is why Visions of Science champions a holistic approach to make STEM accessible to all. The organization prioritizes equity by tackling practical barriers, such as transportation and meal provision, while recognizing the need for early, community-based interventions to foster diversity.
Interac is dedicated to supporting organizations such as Visions of Science, that focus on building a diverse talent pool for tomorrow’s STEM leaders. We accomplish this through various sponsorships rooted in education, collaborations with organizations like ACCES Employment, and direct engagement with underrepresented youth through the TDSB Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement. We are committed to building a diverse workforce representative of the Canadian landscape, while also encouraging other organizations to do the same.
Making an impact and focused on the future
Since 2004, Visions of Science has engaged over 16,000 youth, reaching over 30 communities, with over 3,000 youth impacted annually. Visions of Science measures the impact of its programs through a holistic lens, aiming to cultivate curiosity, confidence, connection, and competence in the youth it serves. Surveys, facilitator feedback, focus groups with parents, and qualitative data collection methods provide a comprehensive understanding of the outcomes.
The Visions of Science team shared a story of a student who initially laughed at pursuing a STEM career when they first joined Visions of Science as a child, the same student is now studying engineering and actively contributing to the transportation industry due to their exposure to these programs. The ripple effect of Visions of Science’s initiatives is seen in the transformed lives of these youths. From dispelling stereotypes to empowering them to become employers for their peers, the organization has fostered a community of individuals making a substantial impact in STEM.
Looking ahead, Visions of Science aims to engage 10,000 youth annually by 2025, deepening its impact through 10 core components that provide pathways for continued success. Multi-year funding is essential for Visions of Science to fulfill its commitments to the communities it serves, ensuring sustained growth and empowerment in the years to come.
Learn more about our commitment to community impact here.