Student’s experience with Let’s Talk Science sparks motivation to give back

It was an evening of intense pride for Raya Porter and her 13 other colleagues at Element 83 – their student-run company, facilitated by Junior Achievement of Waterloo Region’s Company Program.

As they sat down at their final board meeting on April 4th, 2017, the young entrepreneurs reflected on the success of their company. And they celebrated their decision to donate a large portion of their profits to Let’s Talk Science now that their 20-week program had come to an end.

The $1,300 gift is the largest donation Let’s Talk Science has ever received from a group of students.

“Our company made necklace charms out of Bismuth, so we were very technology and science based,” Porter explains. “Everyone on the team is passionate about STEM and both the president and I had top-of-mind awareness about Let’s Talk Science from a previous experience. We were able to convince the [Element 83] team this would be a great organization to give our profits to.”

The previous experience Porter refers to happened when she was in Grade 11. Porter’s chemistry teacher coordinated a field trip to the University of Waterloo through Let’s Talk Science. There, in the laboratory, Porter and her classmates made acetaminophen from scratch. Donovan Payton, who would later become the president of Element 83, was her lab partner on that memorable day.

“It was exciting to work in a professional, scientific environment on a real lab experiment,” Porter recalls. “You do experiments in school but you don’t get to do anything this elaborate due to limited resources. Let’s Talk Science gave us the opportunity to apply the theory we learned in class to a hands-on experiment.”

Porter says the field trip gave her and her classmates a glimpse into what a professional life as a chemist would be. She was deeply inspired by the experience and continues to foster a passion for science and an appreciation for the organization that made it possible.

But that wasn’t Porter’s only experience with Let’s Talk Science. In high school, she volunteered with UWaterloo Science Outreach where she met many Let’s Talk Science volunteers. “I had several in-depth conversations with them about the programs the organization offers and the great work they’re doing in the community,” says Porter.

And so, when it came time to donate Element 83’s profits to a charity of their choice, it’s not surprising Porter and Payton suggested Let’s Talk Science to their colleagues. “We did a lot of research on various organizations but what set Let’s Talk Science apart was the direct impact they’re making in our hometown of Kitchener. They’re reaching out to schools and the community and sparking a passion for science in young people,” she explains.

Porter says she’s fortunate. Her father is interested in science and nurtured that same passion in his daughter. “From the time I learned to read, I was reading about the planets and how space works,” Porter recalls. “I was still in elementary school when I started going to physics lectures.”

Porter recognizes that not all children are exposed to science at home. Many kids must be turned onto STEM in school and in the community. That’s why Let’s Talk Science is so important. As Porter says, “STEM is our future. It’s the direction our society and economy is turning toward and so we must have great minds coming into this field. We must support our youth, giving them the chance to put their hands on science so they can develop this very important passion.”

For that reason, Porter and her colleagues are very proud of their donation that they hope will help support further outreach.

“With the rise of technology, we need to embrace what’s coming down the pipeline. The best way to prepare for the future is to train and excite our youth about STEM,” says Porter. “With your support for Let’s Talk Science, you’re effectively helping to achieve that goal by inspiring young people to go into the fields where we will desperately need them.”

Porter is currently in her first year at Wilfrid Laurier University studying communications and business.

Let’s Talk Science thanks Porter and her colleagues at Element 83 for their generous donation.

Junior Achievement’s Company program offers students in Grades 9-12 the opportunity to work in groups with mentors to build a small business. They brainstorm a product idea, raise capital, manufacture and sell their product and liquidate the company after 20 weeks.