BIPOC Voices: Interview with Shay Saleem

Shay square

February 22nd, 2021

Ms. Shay Saleem is the Manager of Teen Leadership Programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. In her conversation with CAISE, she reflected on how her informal and formal STEM learning experiences prepared her to design and implement youth programs that leverage community networks and empower girls to authentically engage with STEM.

Two women at table

As a native of New York City, Ms. Saleem was actively engaged in her everyday learning ecology. Her interest and curiosity about the natural world was reinforced by regular excursions to the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens, watching PBS channel 13, and participating in a high school internship at the New York Aquarium. She credits her experiences working as a youth docent with helping her to find her voice in STEM. Through undergraduate and graduate school programs, Ms. Saleem was convinced that STEM research was her career path. However, her experiences as an NSF funded community outreach fellow in graduate school opened her eyes to the critical role that women of color can play in STEM education. When the opportunity to work at the Intrepid presented itself, Ms. Saleem accepted the challenge and created an interdisciplinary STEM program to engage and empower girls. Over the last decade, the GOALS (Greater Opportunities Advancing Leadership and Science) for Girls program has evolved to include summer institutes, internships, and mentoring that has created a network of hundreds of women and girls. Through this community, participants are supported in their ongoing engagement with STEM.

Group of kids

Ms. Saleem also discusses how COVID-19 and the George Floyd moment reinforced the value and importance of building safe places for youth and professionals to process events with the support of a community. Despite the challenges,  Ms. Saleem acknowledges that 2020 has provided opportunities for critically important conversations about racial justice, systemic bias, and ways that STEM literacy is vital for all communities.

We encourage you to read the interview to engage with Ms. Saleem’s story in her own words.