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Board Member Spotlight

By:Anna Khan

Francesca Vidal is a senior at Brownell Talbot who has gone above and beyond for the JuSTEMagine team. I can attest that we are extremely lucky to have her as the JuSTEMagine president. She’s been in robotics for her entire high school career and her team shows equal dedication. Francesca is organized, diplomatic, and an all-around great leader who has a genuine passion for the JuSTEMagine mission.

How did you initially get involved with JuSTEMagine?

"I joined JuSTEMagine in my freshman year of high school. We got the opportunity to sign up for clubs we were interested in and I saw that JuSTEMagine was one of the clubs offered. I did not know what JuSTEMagine was when I signed up but I knew that it was related to STEM. I had been very interested in STEM as I love math and science, and I was excited to have the opportunity to be able to express my passion by helping others."

Why is Social Emotional Learning important to you?

"There has been a great increase, especially after the pandemic, in the number of teens who struggle with mental health in the past couple of years. In relation to STEM, I believe that having good mental health is important because of the tremendous amount of stress and anxiety students will face on their journey to graduating with a STEM degree. A lot of students back away from STEM degrees because they are afraid they do not have the skills to do well in college. SEL, especially when taught at an early age, has been proven to help increase confidence, build healthy relationships, and promote positive mindsets. SEL is important because it has the power to help inspire more kids to pursue and succeed in STEM careers. "

What are your responsibilities as JuSTEMagine President?

"As president, I manage every aspect of JuSTEMagine and ensure that everything is running smoothly. I meet with our Chapter leaders every month and with potential volunteers, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Imagining, and I help organize events."

How do you feel JuSTEMagine and Social Emotional Learning affect students?

"We partner with SPARK Positivity, a SEL nonprofit organization that is dedicated to teaching kids about SEL. Through SEL, JuSTEMagine volunteers have written research papers on the benefits of SEL, edited and designed SEL lessons in English and Spanish, and organized the Positivity in a Box assembly that takes place at least once a year. For Positivity in a Box. JuSTEMagine focuses on designing 10 SEL lessons and then organizing a large assembly to organize the lessons into a kit. JuSTEMagine has hosted several events that incorporate SEL lessons. Last year at our first STEM Night, we taught the participants how to set SMART goals. In May, we hosted our first Art Event where we connected SEL and art through different activities. "

What work are you most proud of during your time working with JuSTEMagine?

"I am most proud of JuSTEMagine’s first Legislative Advocacy Conference in 2022. It was the first time that we had ever advocated to state senators. We decided to advocate for bill LB1112. LB1112 requires high school students in Nebraska to take at least 1 semester of a computer or technology class. A big reason why students do not pursue STEM careers is because they are not given opportunities to expose themselves to STEM. Shortly after our conference, LB1112 was passed; all the state senators we advocated voted to implement the bill. We are very hopeful that in Nebraska there will be an increase in the number of students who decide to major in STEM. "

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