Nickelodeon’s ‘Time Kid of the Year’ TV special that showcases extraordinary kids from around the county featured 14-year-old Temple Lester, a freshman at Chamblee High School.

She was anonymously nominated for her STEM Swag Box. A science kit she created to help get more girls and minorities into science.  STEM Swag Boxes cost $24.99 on Temple’s website but she also started a crowdfunding campaign that raised $5000 so she could give free boxes to kids in her community.  Temple said she first became concerned about inclusion in STEM because when she was 7-years-old she went to science camp and was the only girl in the whole program.

“I got called princess at science summer camp but I was there because I wanted to be a scientist so I learned how to advocate for myself and for others who might be going through the same thing,” Temple told the Atlanta Voice.

Over the past few years Temple said she has put together around one thousand STEM Swag Boxes for kids between 5 and 13 years-old. All of which are put together by the Lester family in their living room.  Jennifer Lester, Temple’s mother, told the Voice that she wanted her daughter to find her own interests outside the influence of her parents and family members.

“For Temple, we let her try a lot of different things, so she did dance, she did cheerleading, she did soccer,” said Lester. Adding that all Temple wanted to do on the soccer field was look at the dirt and collect rocks.  Lester said she knew how serious Temple was about science when she was able to convince her father to turn part of his basement man cave into a science lab to do experiments.  “I follow her lead instead of pushing, and this is what she’s passionate about,” Lester said.  In addition to her passion for STEM, Jennifer Lester said her daughter has always been into fashion and style, which she combined to create the STEM Girl Swag movement.

“The reason was to show my friends that science is cool and you don’t have to be a nerd, and wearing glasses and suspenders to love science,” Temple said.

Temple said her path to being a STEM advocate instead of just a scientist began in 5th grade when her teacher encouraged her to sign up for the STEMtalk competition, held every year by the Georgia Science Teachers Association.

“I didn’t want to do it but he convinced my mom to let me do it, and it ended up being the best decision ever,” she said.

Temple’s talk was called ‘I traded in my crown for a lab jacket’where she talked about her experience being the only girl at science camp. She was one of three winners chosen to speak in front of 2500 science teachers from across the state of Georgia.

Each STEM Swag Box comes with multiple experiments and activities including magnetic slime, LED light paper circuit and an earth science project.

The full Nickelodeon ‘Kid of the Year’ special featuring Temple is streaming on their website.

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

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Madeline Thigpen is an education reporter and Report for America Corps Member. She joined the Atlanta Voice in 2021. At the Voice she covers K-12 education for the Atlanta metro region and higher education....