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, MS
BS – Union University
MS – University of Tennessee Health Science Center
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.
She 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.
Ayers is a founding member and chair of the Memphis STEM in Medicine Ecosystem, a city-wide initiative aimed at addressing inequities in STEM education specific to the Memphis area.
She 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, MAT
BS – University of Memphis
MAT – Christian Brothers University
Krisderlawn Motley is part of the Cancer and Education Outreach Program team at St. Jude, a community outreach program that 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 afterschool programs and local outreach events. Motley identifies and establishes partnerships with Shelby County Schools and community organizations to further the program’s outreach efforts. In addition, 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.
Gwen Alexander, PhD
BS – Spelman College
PhD – University of Wisconsin - Madison
Gwen Alexander is a part of the Cancer Education and Outreach Program team at St. Jude, a community outreach program which aims to increase diversity of the biomedical workforce by addressing inequities in K-12 STEM education.
Alexander’s primary focus includes oversight of the High School Research Immersion Program, an eight-week mentoring and hands-on laboratory experience program with St. Jude scientists and the MemSTEMM Ambassadors Classroom, a professional development program for scientists to enhance their science communication skills. Through intentional partnerships, Alexander furthers the program’s outreach effort by assisting in the design and development of innovative STEM-focused educational content for teachers and the greater community.
Prior to joining St. Jude, Alexander was a science educator for more than a decade, developing and teaching science curriculum at the college and high school levels. She also served on advisory task forces and as advisor to several campus organizations and clubs.
Alexander holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Spelman College and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her postdoctoral fellowship work was completed in the Centers for Vascular Biology and Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia.
Robyn Pennella, MPH
BS – University of Memphis
MPH – University of Memphis
Robyn Pennella is part of 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.
Anika Britton, MAT
BS – University of Memphis
MA – Union University
Anika Britton is part of the Cancer Education and Outreach Team at St. Jude which aims to promote diversity within science and STEM education to improve the success rate for underrepresented minorities in STEM careers.
In her role, she provides support for educators to have access and equity in cancer research education within the urban community and public schools. She is responsible for obtaining, supervising, and training college interns. Britton initiates and maintains partnerships with elementary and middle schools within Memphis Shelby County Schools and neighboring districts for facilitation of after school clubs, career fairs, and science ambassadors. She also plans and organizes day to day activities to assist with designing and developing innovative cancer-focused educational curriculum for K-12 students and cancer education content for the public.
Prior to joining St. Jude, Britton served as an Advance Placement Biology Teacher, STEM Instructor and Professional Learning Coach within Memphis Shelby County Schools. While in that career, she was also a mentor for the Technology Student Association and Science Olympiad Clubs where she successfully led these chapters in local, state, and national STEM competitions. During this time, she inspired a team of educators, parents, and students to constantly seek innovative solutions to scientific questions and provide the best educational experiences for her students.
Britton holds a Bachelor of Science degree in public health from The University of Memphis and a Master of Art in Teaching from Union University. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with family.
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