The St. Jude Cancer Education and Outreach Program aims to increase diversity of the biomedical workforce by addressing inequities in K-12 STEM education.
A diverse biomedical workforce is essential to providing high quality patient care. Yet, women and people of color remain underrepresented in the biomedical workforce. These disparities are the result of persisting inequities in K-12 STEM education that exclude women and people of color from biomedical career pathways, such as lack of culturally responsive pedagogy, lack of access and opportunity to participate in authentic STEM learning, and lack of mentorship.
Our activities focus on addressing these inequities through:
Kate Ayers leads the Cancer Education and Outreach Program at St. Jude, a community outreach program which aims to increase diversity of the biomedical workforce by addressing inequities in K-12 STEM education.
Through intentional school partnership, Ayers works with school and science educators to co-create science learning modules that integrate cancer concepts into the classroom curriculum. In addition, Ayers established the St. Jude Science Ambassadors Program, which intentionally connects Memphis youth to diverse scientists to dispel misconceptions related to who scientists are and who can be a scientist.
Ayers also led the development of two after school clubs. The Afterschool STEM Clubs are hosted in 24 elementary schools and serves over 400 5th grade students annually. The St. Jude Community Health Clubs are hosted in 4 middle schools and serve approximately 80 7th and 8th graders annually.
In 2021, Ayers established and now chairs the Memphis STEM in Medicine Ecosystem, a city-wide initiative aimed at addressing inequities in STEM education specific to the Memphis area.
Ayers holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Union University and a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Research with an emphasis in Structural Biology from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She is currently working toward a PhD at the University of Memphis in Educational Psychology and Research.
Krisderlawn Motley is a Coordinator for the Cancer and Education Outreach Program at St. Jude, a community outreach program which aims to increase diversity of the biomedical workforce by addressing inequities in K-12 STEM education.
In her current role, she is responsible for development and oversight of the Cancer Education Outreach Program at the local, national, and international levels. Motley identifies and establishes partnerships with Shelby County Schools and community organizations to further the program’s outreach efforts. She assists with the design and development of innovation cancer-focused educational content for the public.
Prior to joining the St. Jude staff in March 2018, Motley served as a Coordinator with Workforce Investment Network under the Careers and Technology Division with Shelby County Schools. While in that career, she excelled in recruitment, retention, and placement of at-risk youth in that program. She is passionate about encouraging, engaging, and empowering youth to reach their true potential and to lead a purpose-filled life.
Motley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from University of Memphis and a Master of Art in Teaching degree from Christian Brothers University. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, mentoring youth and spending time with her son and family members.
Robyn Pennella is a science instructional specialist for the Cancer Education and Outreach Program at St. Jude. She is responsible for training college interns and working with teachers to co-create, implement, and evaluate PreK-12 educational curriculum with our school partners. Pennella aims to construct meaningful and authentic science learning experiences by drawing upon tenants of justice-oriented pedagogy, project-based learning, and 3-dimensional science learning frameworks.
Pennella served as a college intern at St. Jude for two years prior to joining the St. Jude staff fulltime. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Public Health degree from The University of Memphis.
The Cancer Education and Outreach Program is a member of the Memphis STEM in Medicine Ecosystem, a city-wide initiative aimed at addressing inequities in STEM education specific to the Memphis area.
The St. Jude Cancer Education and Outreach Program partners with schools to provide access and opportunities for youth to engage in authentic STEM learning experience during the school day and through out-of-school time programming