Arisha Raza knew at an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in a STEM field, and so she regularly attended camps to feed her passion. But Raza found the best STEM camps were often expensive and far away, which excluded students whose families couldn’t afford the cost of attendance or travel.
So Raza designed a camp to break through those barriers called The Radar: it’s virtual and free for all elementary- and middle-school-age students.
“Passion should be free,” Raza, a rising sophomore at Alliance Academy for Innovation, said.
The Radar runs from June 29 to July 28 for students in grades 3-8. Camp sessions are held every Tuesday and Thursday via Zoom, the video conferencing app, and last an hour.
Raza is leading an international effort to pull off The Radar through the website Allforgood.org, a hub for volunteer projects. Raza posted her idea for the camp on the website and was able to recruit volunteers from around the world to help design a logo, website, and marketing materials. Others researched subject areas and created presentations for camp sessions. Others are “student leaders” who will lead the sessions on Zoom.
Raza is just the one behind the scenes coordinating it all.
“I think it’s so fun,” Raza said. “And I know that whatever I’m doing is going to directly affect someone’s life.”
The camp’s virtual format has led to an international enrollment, too. Over 100 students have already signed up, including several from Forsyth County but also Canada, Korea and Vietnam, Raza said.
They’ll be exposed to a wide range of STEM-related topics, from health care to mechatronics, renewable energy to artificial intelligence, cyber security and more, which was intentional — Raza geared it toward students who don’t know what career they want to go into or aren’t familiar with STEM fields.
“If they’re exposed to STEM at a younger age, they’re more likely to go into a STEM field later on,” Raza said.
That was Raza’s experience. Born in Pakistan and raised in Dallas, she attended a STEM school starting in first grade. Computer science caught Raza’s attention first, but being raised in a family of doctors made an impression, too, and they fed Raza’s interest by enrolling her in STEM-related camps and courses.
During summer trips back to Pakistan, Raza noticed poorer areas that didn’t have access to good medical care. She knew people who died from critical medical issues because they couldn’t afford treatment or the local hospital didn’t have the necessary resources.
All of it convinced Raza she wanted to become a doctor one day and open hospitals in the U.S. and abroad that provide care to people whether they can afford it or not.
“I have a privilege,” Raza said, “and I want to use that it help others.”
That vision drives Raza. She selected the law career pathway at Alliance to prepare herself for future humanitarian work. She’s taking courses in health care outside of school. This summer she’s taking online classes at Harvard and MIT.
Just 14, Raza says she’s found her life’s passion.
She hopes The Radar will help other kids find theirs, too.
“Maybe this camp finally pushes someone into a STEM career,” Raza said. “Just knowing if I could change one person’s perspective, that’s wonderful."