Alumni Panel with Federal Way Public Schools

On March 31, IGNITE Worldwide welcomed girls and non-binary students from Federal Way Public Schools to a virtual panel with Federal Way Public Schools graduates (and IGNITE alums!). Student attendees ranged in age from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Shivanah Prasad welcomed the students and introduced herself and the three other panelists. Each panelist graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School within the past few years, and each is now in college pursuing a field in STEM. In high school, each panelist was also involved in IGNITE Worldwide!

After the introduction, the panelists shared a bit more about themselves and their experiences in STEM.

Shivanah Prasad graduated from high school two years ago and attends Central Washington University. She interned for Alaska Airlines and is now an IT tech intern for Federal Way Public Schools, where she is in charge of making sure that laptops are properly distributed and that students are able to efficiently attend remote school. Shivanah says to stick with IGNITE Worldwide; you will get lots of advice and opportunities, and you will be able to surround yourself with people who support and encourage you!

Praises Orji is a sophomore at the University of Washington. She is also an intern with Federal Way Public Schools, where she helps teachers learn how to use new tools as they switch to virtual class environments. Praises says that representation is really important in STEM—seeing people who look like you in STEM helps you know that you are not alone!

Marcella Huang is a computer science student at the University of Washington. She is also interning remotely at CodeStream Studios in Texas, where she is working on databases. Marcella became interested in computer science in middle school, and IGNITE helped her find options in STEM!

Mayela Perez is a freshman at Washington State University and is planning to study mechanical engineering. She looks forward to doing internships in the future. Mayela’s advice to the students is to be boundless and explore all your interests!

After hearing from the panelists, the students asked great questions, including:

  • At what age did you become interested in STEM and what sparked your interest?
  • What advice do you have for middle school-aged girls and non-binary students?
  • What can companies and organizations do to support young people in finding their paths?
  • What are ways to take care of your mental health?

Panelists responses and advice to the students included:

  • Explore as many options as possible, including the arts and any other interests you have, to develop your discipline and determination.
  • Don’t focus on only one branch of your skill set; this can limit you and you might not find your passion that way. Develop a sense of self.
  • In middle school, look for STEM programs, teachers, classes, and clubs. Then, use high school to narrow down your interests in STEM.
  • Internships can help you discover both the kind of work you are really drawn to and the work you might not want to do in the future.
  • Meet people through IGNITE, and when you find people with the same interests as you be sure to keep those connections!
  • Networking, even with other students, is what helps you hear about opportunities.
  • Reach out to people for help; most people are very kind, and the worst that people can do is say “no” to you.
  • Life is about trying again over and over. Do not worry if you are struggling, because we all are!
  • Just try your best, and you never know what will come of it!

Concluding with a lightning round, each panelist answered the question, “What do you wish you knew when you were the same age as the students?” Panelists responded:

  • I can be a lot more than what I expected of myself!
  • I am smart! I didn’t believe this about myself when I was younger.
  • I should live for myself and shouldn’t worry about trying to impress others or competing with others.
  • I should have confidence, believe in myself, and surround myself with encouraging people.

A huge thank you to our amazing panelists, Shivanah Prasad, Praises Orji, Marcella Huang, and Mayela Perez! Thank you to Tech Host, Stephanie Vaughn, and IGNITE volunteers, Anneka Boccio and Virginia Bing, for helping to put on such an inspiring and memorable event!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

“It was interesting hearing the experiences of alumni. As women, I think we can relate to the same things, which makes it so inspiring.” – 6th grade

“It inspired me a lot. I was coding during the event!” – 4th grade

“They were really inspiring, they were kind, and they talked about very important things that really helped me.” – 6th grade

“Hearing them talk about how they got into STEM and what inspired them helped me.” – 11th grade

“They inspired me to be confident and to pursue my dreams.” – 6th grade

“As a junior who is about to be a senior, it was helpful to hear about how STEM is in college.” – 11th grade

“They are so inspiring.” – 7th grade

“I would like to explore more about STEM!” – 6th grade

“I have been to STEM events before but since this one gave me perspectives of women in STEM, it made me think about STEM as a career!” – 9th grade