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Mentoring the next generation of STEM leaders

STEM BlazersWhen Zion Diriba was in fifth grade, she wanted to save the world.

“I wanted to stop pollution,” explained the Eaglecrest High School junior. “It was very much a personal thing. I went to the library and read so many books on the impact of pollution, especially ocean pollution.”

This sparked a love of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in Diriba that has followed her through her educational career. As a seventh-grader at Horizon Community Middle School, she joined the STEM Blazers, a club to encourage young women to go into STEM careers, which are typically very male-dominated. 

Diriba, who wants to be an environmental engineer, said the club was immensely helpful in providing her with the knowledge, skills, and network she will need.

“The club really helped me get out of my comfort zone and meet new people,” Diriba explained. “One year, we even had students from another middle school join us, so I had to push out of my introverted tendencies.”

STEM Blazers, which is supported by the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, serves 13 schools in the district, which includes a virtual program for students at Cherry Creek Elevation.The program sponsors trips to industry organizations as well as hands-on learning activities and discussions about relevant topics and careers. The projects range from working with Spheros coding robots to creating paper bridges to sustain a car’s weight to designing tessellated tiles. Diriba loved the club so much that she now returns as a mentor to guide future STEM leaders.

“Mentoring requires a lot of different skills,” Diriba said. “You have to find the balance of guiding them and letting them grow and learn. It can take a lot of communication and patience, but getting to see students start to figure things out is so rewarding. You can see how you’ve empowered them.”

Diriba plans to continue her studies and go on to college, noting that her love for STEM comes from an unexpected place of creativity.

“When we talk about STEM, I think people think about it as being very rigid and maybe not as fun, but there’s a lot of creativity in STEM. There’s almost always more than one answer to a problem and you really get to practice thinking outside the box.”


Posted 4/15/24.