Interview with Pari Latawa, founder of SparkED!

Pari Latawa is a 15 year old sophomore from Texas. She started SparkED to create access to STEM education for underprivileged children.

Interview by Aleena Kumandan

So tell us about yourself?

My name is Pari Latawa, I’m a 15 year old sophomore at LASA high school in Texas. Other than my organization , I enjoy playing the viola, competing in science olympiad, I have a 4 yr old sister whose birth sparked my interest in science

So the birth of your sister is what sparked your interest in STEM?

Yea so my mother had a high risk pregnancy and I always found it interesting how the gynecologists and other doctors helped her and eventually brought my sister to life.I was exposed to the multidisciplinary fields of science and STEM through science olympiad in which we could choose between 23 unique and mixed events which I found super fascinating!

What moved you to translate your interest in STEM to what you currently do with SPARKED?

As I was in middle school and high school and got involved with this health science advocacy organization, I realized how important it was to engage the community and specifically low income children. I realize how many people didn’t know that there were so many branches and mixes that science and STEM includes and that it’s not just “super hard math” or just “memorizing biology”.So this kind of sparked (haha) me to create an organization with the aim of increasing scientific literacy for the whole community because I believe being able to understand science is the key to having a more knowledgeable and sustainable future!Also our org puts an emphasis on that science can take on various forms and it has a very broad range which is an important realization that many kids and peers don’t and aren’t able to figure out either due to a lack of guidance or a mentor

While you mentioned that the birth of your sister started your interest in STEM was there any person or experience in particular that inspired you to start SPARKED?

Yea, so when I first started getting involved with science and the community, I went to local Title 1 low income elementary schools to guide the 4th and 5th graders through the science fair process and do demos to introduce science to them. From those events, I realized that basic support from high schoolers stimulated these younger students’ minds and lifelong passion for learning. I really wanted to encapsulate that feeling and type of aid for the greater community through various different events so I started my org!

What makes a good community outreach organization? How did you achieve that in such a short time?

I believe a good community outreach organization needs genuinely interested people, a network of people and resources to reach out to for help/guidance/opportunities, timely management, and organization.

Are you able to do any community outreach during the quarantine?

Currently due to exam season and adjusting, we haven’t but I plan on leveraging summer to expand our reach and plan for an annual conference and events and the fall.

Where do you plan on going with SPARKED in the future? What are your plans in the coming years?

I hope to expand to an international level and host more global summits as we’ve done a few so far. I want to organize an annual conference to engage the community in STEM and science and additionally have more partnerships (such as with MD Anderson Medical Center and more). Also, I plan on hosting events in the fall pretty frequently.

How do you plan on going about expanding to an international level?

From attending camps, I’ve met like minded and pretty inspiring people and I plan on pitching to them. Also through ig takeovers and publicity, I hope to expand - we’ve received interest from North Carolina currently and are working on that!

What advice do you have for other teens interested in STEM/Community outreach?

Reach out to anyone you feel inspired by or just want to talk to. Also believe in yourself and take it one step at a time because it takes time and effort and won’t just happen in a day haha. Also most importantly keep exploring because science is such a big field and the opportunities and ideas to explore are endless!

Would you say that advice goes for all teens no matter what they’re trying to pursue or do you have other advice for teens in general?

It can work for both, for general, keep exploring any opportunities (if you’re interested in science then science) because you never know what you might like or not.

That’s great advice! Any final thoughts you want to share?

Thanks! I’d appreciate it if you could let people know that if they’re interested in getting involved, make sure to reach out!

Sure! What platforms should they be reaching out to you on?

DMs, email, LinkedIn. Paridhi.latawa@gmail.com, If they search Paridhi Latawa or Pari Latawa LinkedIn will probably come up

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