Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Gates Foundation Discovery Center.
Doetri Ghosh is a 17-year-old senior at Issaquah High School and a Youth Ambassador at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center. ParentMap caught up with this busy and talented young woman to learn more about her service to her school and wider community — and about her vision for the future.
As a youth change-maker, what issues are most near and dear to your heart?
Educational equality is something that I’m really passionate about, and I hope to increase the number of girls in STEM through my involvement in my high school’s engineering club. I also co-founded an organization with my friends in 2016, through the youth chapter of a Bay Area nonprofit organization called Baybasi [baybasi.us], which organizes different Indian cultural events. We really wanted to give back to our community, so we created an initiative to be able to host fundraisers for different organizations. Our focus is on educational equality: We raise money for organizations that are, for example, providing school supplies or funding education for girls in Afghanistan. During COVID-19, we had an additional focus on hygiene and health, as well as on response to natural disasters.
How did you become involved in the youth programming initiatives at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center?
The year we moved here to Seattle from California, I had discovered a newfound passion for volunteering work and for taking action on different causes in my community, because that was the same year that we started the [Baybasi] youth chapter initiative. So, my family decided to check out the Gates Foundation Discovery Center. We learned about the Take Action programs, and I got involved in the middle-school workshops in seventh and eighth grade. Then, I did the high school workshops in ninth grade and 10th grade.
During my 10th-grade year, I applied to become a Youth Ambassador. My first year in the program was virtual, but I had so much fun collaborating with all of these amazing youth ambassadors, many of whom I had already met through the summer workshops, that I came back in the 11th grade. I came back this year as well.
The dynamic has definitely changed from when we were virtual. The atmosphere of the Discovery Center is really unique — the moment I step inside, my mindset just completely changes into a focus on: How can I collaborate with these amazing ambassadors, and how can we make sure that these programs and events that we’re planning are successful?
What are your goals for the engineering club, in your current leadership of it?
I personally didn’t know that I wanted to go into engineering until I took an engineering class during my freshman year. I joined the club in my sophomore year, and that is when I realized that engineering is a very male-dominated field. I believe I was one of two girls who were in the club that year. Because I personally love the subject so much, I was willing to stick with the club in order to meet new people.
Junior year, when we went back to school in person, I decided that I really wanted to make sure that this club was for all students, but also focus on [increasing the number of] female students in our club. I wanted to make sure that female students who were confident enough to join would feel at home. But I also wanted the club to feel like a comfortable and equitable environment for female students who were maybe shyer. I wanted to remove any worries that they might have, so I talked about my own experience of joining the club as a female student, one of only two, and how I found a place where I felt like I was respected and I was learning.
Now, I believe we have 12 female members, and whenever we have our club sessions, I always see a new female peer in the club, which is great to see.
Where do you expect your passion for engineering will lead you, in terms of next education or career steps?
I definitely want to go into the STEM field. My main goal with my education is to study engineering — in particular, cyber security is a field that I’ve been really looking into because of the digital divide, the unequal access to digital technology and access to software, information and resources. But, regardless of what subject I study, my main goal is to be able to build innovative programs that can really improve the different access and equity issues facing our society.
What advice do you have for other youths looking to get involved in community service?
Be willing and open to trying different things! For me, finding what I’m passionate about — which is educational equality and equitable access to technology — really started because I found a hobby that I was interested in. That hobby led me to Engineering Club, which gave me a chance to merge my studies and my interests to explore important real-world issues.
Connecting with opportunities around your interests can seem really intimidating at the start. But just go for it! As you practice taking action in your community, volunteering at different places, you’ll be able to determine which of those activities click with you the most. Before you discover what really resonates with you, you may volunteer at 10 different places before you find that certain place where you really feel like you’re making an impact, where you really feel like you’re able to connect with the people you’re there to support. But that’s how you find what it is that you’re passionate about.