Marking 20 Years of STEM Education at TAF, and Planning for 20 More

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having your engineers volunteer, tell the students about the work they do, help them with their projects for an hour or two, judge the learning exhibitions and senior projects.

Those experiences can help small companies understand what students are capable of. “Then you can say, ‘Alright, I can open an internship. Or I’ll do a job shadow. Or I’ll send my company to your career fair,’” Dziko says.

Not everyone can be convinced. Dziko and TAF are working against a history of systemic racism, oppression, and injustice that predates the founding of this country.

“If you don’t believe that people of color and women have the same aptitude and capabilities as white guys and Indian guys or Asian guys, then it’s just not going to work,” she says. “Your actions, your behaviors will show that.”

Dziko doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people. Diversity training, she says, can only go so far. “I think you just need to experience it,” she says, suggesting the following exercise:

Everyone should take a moment to think about a time or times they were excluded. “Everybody’s had that time,” Dziko says. “Regardless of how old you were, really sit with that, and how that felt for you. And realize that that’s what it feels like to be black and brown and a woman in the tech field. And you don’t want to recreate that kind of environment for your employees.”

Talking with Dziko, one gets a view of the day-to-day challenges of transforming educational and industry culture, as well as the broader perspective of someone who has been at this for 20 years and understands the endurance required.

Pavers recognize TAF doners.

Pavers recognize TAF doners.

Her ambition is undiminished. Over the next two decades, TAF aims to train more than 5,000 teachers, expand the STEMbyTAF school transformation program to 60 schools, support the training of more than 2,400 teachers of color through the Martinez Fellowship (established by former Mariners great Edgar Martinez and his wife, Holli, in 2008), and leverage TAF’s growing alumni network for mentorship and support.

With the strategic plan in place and a team ready to make it real, Dziko, TAF’s executive director, says she’ll be transitioning over the coming years into more of a strategic advisory role.

But don’t think for a moment that she’s separating from the work of a lifetime.

“I’m always going to be here until I draw my last breath,” she says. “I’m going to be a part of TAF, regardless of whatever else I’m doing.”

(More details of TAF’s 20th anniversary celebration, Oct. 1, are available here.)

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