Emily LakdawallaMay 16, 2013

Brief update with good news on Kiera Wilmot

Two weeks ago I wrote about Kiera Wilmot, a teen girl who was expelled from her school and charged with two felonies for unsupervised messing around with a chemical reaction on school grounds. Yesterday the Orlando Sentinel reported that no charges are being filed against her, which removes the greatest threat to her future. She has been "diverted" into a probationary-type program (this is the same kind of thing I experienced as a teen, and in my case, it was effective). She has still been expelled from her school; her lawyer is now focusing on enabling her to return to her high school for her final year. This online fundraiser for her legal fees is legitimate (according to blogger Danielle Lee, who heard it from Kiera's mother).

Thanks to Twitter and other social media, Kiera and her twin sister Kayla have been offered all kinds of support and opportunities for internships -- there is even an online fundraiser to send the two to Space Camp this summer. Which is awesome, but not entirely satisfying to me. Because you know that for every human interest story that lands in a newspaper, there are thousands of similar stories that never get that kind of attention. Which means there are thousands of other children out there whose scientific curiosity never finds an outlet. There are very likely many other cases where a teen's natural fascination with fire and things that go boom has landed them in juvenile hall. There are probably more cases, though, where a child has had the self-control not to experiment with dangerous things -- and thus never enjoys the joy of scientific exploration of their world at all. How do we reach those kids? How can those of us who have had the lifetime privilege of a supportive and encouraging environment provide underprivlieged kids who have the aptitude and curiosity for science with the same privileges?

The following blog post provides some examples. I met immunologist and science blogger Caleph Wilson through Twitter as a result of the online conversation about Kiera Wilmot. Wilson has recently started a Facebook page called First Generation STEM, focused on issues surrounding access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers for children whose families have no experience in those careers. I asked him to provide some concrete examples of how scientists can help all the Kieras out there whose stories are not in the newspapers.

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