New Film Inspires Youth to Find Passion in STEM Education and Discover Science-Based Career Opportunities

A unique partnership between the life science industry, health and education leaders launched a film project to inspire youth about the benefits of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the Department of Education, The California Endowment, California Biotechnology Foundation and Lybba today released the film I Am A Scientist. The film connects what learning STEM education can do for expanding career paths.

According to the California STEM Learning Network, students in California continue to lag behind other states ranking 43rd in mathematics and science. This is despite California being home to two of the largest life sciences clusters in the world. As the life science industry grows in California, it will continue to need a diverse and educated workforce to fill available high-paying jobs and STEM education is the foundation that those workers will need.

“California has always led the way in science and technology—and our future as a leader depends on fostering an interest in these fields among our students,” said Superintendent Torlakson.  “The students in our classrooms today are tomorrow’s leaders, and our schools are helping give them the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to reach their potential.”

The film chronicles a day with students from L.A.’s Promise Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles at a biohackathon – inspired by traditional hackathons coined by computer programmers and software developers – offering a real-world hands-on science experiment. It provided a unique gateway for students to express their curiosity around STEM.  The whole day was captured on video by Wondros and serves as the main backdrop of the film.

“At the California Endowment, we know that health and academic achievement go hand in hand. This film gives students the opportunity to share how they’ve been inspired by STEM education and that’s the most effective way they can encourage their peers to consider the life science field as well.  That’s how healthy communities are built,” said B. Kathlyn Mead, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office of The California Endowment.  “We want to help students find their passion and to get a sense for what’s possible in the future.”

The California Endowment is committed to making health happen in schools, as part of its statewide Health Happens Here campaign.  The campaign seeks to change the public’s thinking and the narrative that health doesn’t just happen in the doctor’s office, but health happens where we live, work, learn and play. As part of this partnership they will distribute the film to students and the community through its Building Healthy Communities program, its 10-year, $1 billion plan to create communities where prevention is a priority and is reflected in the physical environment and conditions of neighborhoods and schools.

“There are thousands of jobs available in the life science industry and many students don’t know they exist or that STEM education will put them on the right direction,” said Patty Cooper, Executive Director of the California Biotechnology Foundation.  “This is a major issue as the life science industry grows and seeks a highly-skilled and diversified workforce.” 

The California Department of Education will help ensure the film gets to high schools throughout the state.

“The biohackathon was a hands-on, immersive experience that yielded palpable energy and excitement from the students – I was inspired by their imagination and wonderment as they explored outside of their comfort zone,” said Jesse Dylan, founder of Wondros and Lybba. “These students are genuinely passionate about pursuing careers in science, medicine, research. As storytellers, we strive to capture that side of the story.”

Marlena Jackson, founder of NexGeneGirls, an afterschool program that introduces girls from underrepresented communities to science and technology, has first-hand experience of how STEM and the life science industry has changed lives, including her own: “I see it every day with my girls. Many of them have simply never had exposure to science and now they do which means they have the roadmap needed to make better lives for themselves and their communities. We need to do more to help our youth realize that they can be a scientist, engineer or lab technician.”

The film features Tom Torlakson, Superintendent of Public Instruction;  B. Kathlyn Mead, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The California Endowment; Patty Cooper, Executive Director of the California Biotechnology Foundation;  Stephanie Couch, Executive Director for the Institute of STEM education at CSU East Bay; Marlena Jackson, Founder of NexGeneGirls; Clay Bernard, life science industry; Elvia Hernandez, life science industry; Mr. Choi, teacher at L.A.’s Promise Manual Arts High School and his students.

The full film can be viewed online here: