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K12 Influencers: Kricket Woodman

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way that they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I am a lifelong learner who loves anything purple.

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Maine, in a Portland district called Munjoy Hill. I went to Boston College my freshman year. I received my BA in psychology from the University of Southern Maine. I currently live in Naples, Florida with my husband and 14-year-old son, two dachshunds and a cat.

Favorite website / app:
Right now, it is www.FreeCodeCamp.com I am learning about data science and how to code in R and Python. It’s free. There is so much info about data science on the web, twitter, facebook, etc. I am determined to learn about data and coding. The top jobs of the future are identified as data scientist, DevOp engineer, and data engineer. My goal is to obtain one of those titles. I hope to learn alongside the teens in the STEAM Café.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I associate my dad with inclusion. My dad just recently passed away. I miss him terribly; he called me every day. He actually had a list of about 20 people he called every day. He was a great friend to me and so many others. He was great because he listened and because he taught us five kids about treating ALL people with kindness and concern. He taught us to smile and say hello to people we pass by in our day to day lives from the janitor up to a CEO. My parents became foster parents when someone asked my dad if he and my mom wanted another baby. He said sure, they showed up at our house with the baby and to keep her they had to become foster parents so they did. We had several foster kids come through our home that we all loved and treated as if they were our family. Later my mom worked for the Department of Human Services and my dad worked for the Maine Youth Center, a juvenile detention facility. He was a beloved friend of co-workers and a favorite guard of the kids. He was a big strong guy with a gentile soul. The kids and co-workers felt safe with him just as my siblings and I did. He would listen to the kids and make them feel important by simple things like remembering their name. He wasn’t required to have any interaction with the kids but he had the gift of gab and he shared it with all people no matter their physical or mental capacities or anything else. He and my mom taught us to always remember the Golden Rule. He taught it by example and made so many people feel valued and loved. His message of inclusion of all people has made me a better and stronger person. As a stroke survivor, his message hit home for me. My two sisters live in Florida too. We travelled to Maine to be with our dad in his final days which turned into weeks because of his strength. I will never forget hearing him say to my two sisters and two brothers, “make sure you include Kricket in everything.”  I lost my biggest and best supporter. When I get down about my disability, I think of my dad and smile. I am proud of how he lived and grateful for his lessons and for his acceptance of me even when I was broken. I never thought his beliefs in including all people in life would pertain to me but life is funny like that and my dad was a wise man.

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I survived a major stroke 3 years ago.
Evidently, I had an aneurysm in my brain for many years but didn’t know it. I did have high blood pressure but I never thought a stroke was possible. I found out that I was pregnant on our drive to move to Florida from Maine. After years of trying to conceive, my husband and I kind of gave up. My son arriving at age 40 was a miracle of sorts. My direction of getting a masters degree changed and I went to work for the City of Marco Island for 12 years until I had a subarachnoid hemorrhagic (SAH) stroke in July of 2015. At that time, I was just finishing up an associates degree in paralegal studies. I wanted to have another skill to add to my resume. An SAH is a stroke that only 5% of those who have it live to tell about it. As a result, I am disabled and not able to work yet. I did go back to work part time but it was difficult. I felt like an outsider; it just wasn’t the same. I decided to take a deep breathe and not feel guilty for receiving social security disability (SSD) benefits instead of working. After all, I had been working since age 9 and contributing to social security since the legal work age of 13, including 15 years with the USPS. I was a very active volunteer and person. Not working and staying home was extremely difficult for me and my feelings of self-worth. To turn that around I enrolled in an online MS psychology program at Capella University. I also began volunteering as a counselor for the Crisis Text Line.  It is easy to become depressed after a stroke and it still remains a fight but one that I will not give up. If I give up on me then I give up on my son as well. I can’t do that. I realized that I don’t have to crawl under a rock. I can still help people and contribute to society. There are plenty of role models too. Look at Stephen Hawking, Christopher Reeves, and Michael J. Fox. I continue with physical therapy and continue to seek ways to improve my life. I recently received stem cell therapy so I am hopeful that it will help me improve my mobility.

Describe what it means for you to be a K-12 Influencer in STEM.
I am in beginning stage of starting an after-school STEAM Cafe. At this point it is a dream to open this school/café because I am not experienced in business. I am trying to write a business plan but I am struggling. I need the business plan in order to get funding. I feel there is a need beyond the walls of schools for a safe place for teenagers to explore the STEAM fields. The A is for art which many people, including myself, believe is an integral part of STEM. When I say “safe” I mean a place for maybe introverted students, which quite possibly exist in the STEAM fields. Not just introverts either; I want all teens to feel welcome at the school. I want to promote team work with the residual benefit of increasing individual self-esteem. As a graduate student in psychology, I have a real concern for the current suicide rates in the U.S. One group of teens at high risk are transgender people. I want to welcome teens of all races and genders, including the LGBTQ community. Last year Bill Gates wrote, “The U.S. has the highest college dropout rate. We’re number one in terms of the number of people who start college but we’re like number 20 in terms of the number of people who finish college.” This is not good. I hope to gather teens together in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement to spark an interest in STEAM which will endure. Adding the A creates a wholistic integrative approach. Artists can offer a unique perspective in all the projects of STEM fields. Their creative minds can bring about unique ideas and solutions while adding visualization to projects. I believe there is room for everyone in the future world of STEAM. Some teens may just need a little help from people like me and the other teen members of their team to realize what their part can be.

What is your plan for the STEAM Cafe?
I want to encourage teenage students to choose fields in STEAM, especially girls. I want to use the cafe to sustain the after-school program. I want to learn alongside the students in coding and data science. I want to start projects with them including a container garden (from a Kimbal Musk company called a Learning Garden), a website, local newspaper, and many other tech and AI projects of their choosing. I am writing a Business Plan, which I am not very good at. I am still plugging away, it’s just taking longer than I had hoped.

What knowledge would you impart to other K-12 Influencers in STEM?
I am getting my MS in Psychology and taking classes in coding & data science to someday combine the two fields. There has been a lot of discussion and books about the future of AI as it relates to human emotions. This is where psychology can play an important role. Psychology can aid in implementation and act as a “watchdog” to ensure machines are created within ethical standards. Psychologists may also teach people to interact with AI. Psychologists can also be data scientists or coders, etc. Someday there may even be a new field of engineering called something like Cognitive Engineering. Integrating art and psychology can add to the critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills needed to be successful in the future job market. I am very excited about the work being done at the Media Lab at MIT with what they call “affective computing.” This is the message on their opening page, “Advancing wellbeing using new ways to communicate, understand, and respond to emotion. Their research and projects are in line with my own goals of combining technology and human behavior and emotions. The bottom line, AI and big data are the future. The opportunities for our children are only limited by a lack of creation and motivation. There is room for all of us, young and older in the new age. If you can think it, you can do it.

You can find Kricket on Twitter (@Kricketime), LinkedIn, GitHub, Instagram (@HomerandGinger)

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