“Loving science isn’t about being nerdy,” Temple said. “You can be fun and into the latest trends, have the latest swag, and still be a STEM girl.”
The Chamblee High School junior has career ambitions of being an astrophysicist. But she has been a STEM advocate for a long time. Temple loved STEM so much as a child that her father turned their basement into a science lab. In elementary school, she began doing science experiments using everyday household products and posting videos on YouTube for others to follow.
“I always thought it was interesting to try and find out about the world from a different element, from a science perspective,” she said.
Temple has exposed more than 100,000 people to STEM through her free science workshops, social media engagements, and motivational talks. And her advocacy is turning heads nationally.
President Joe Biden recognized Temple in March at the White House Women’s History Month Reception. Last year, Time for Kids Magazine named her “Kid of the Year” Top 50, and she was highlighted on Nickelodeon’s Acts of Awesomeness.
None of this surprises Temple’s seventh-grade science teacher, Aisha Martin. Martin is also a STEM advocate. She left behind a lab career as a molecular biologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go into the classroom and mentor minority girls in science education.
Martin said even then, Temple was inquisitive, able to grasp concepts quickly, and passionate about science and motivating others her age.
“She has so much potential, and I know she is going to be a global STEM leader, a global change-maker,” said Martin, who keeps in touch with her former student.
Like her teacher, Temple wants to close the science gap between genders and minorities and address inequities in STEM education.
She raised over $5,000 and donated STEM Swag Box science kits to underserved kids in her community. Women and minorities need to see people who look like them in science careers, she said.
“When they see someone who looks like them, that encourages them to know they can do it,” Temple said. “If they don’t see it, they don’t believe they can do that. I like to say: ‘If you don’t see it, be that first person to inspire people to be like you.’”
She remembers being the only girl and one of a few minorities at a summer science camp during elementary school. No one took her seriously. She was called “little princess.”
Her parents told her to stick up for herself, and she also would be sticking up for others.
“I went back and told them: ‘I don’t want to be a little princess. I want to be a scientist like everyone else here,’” remembered Temple.
That experience has driven her STEM advocacy through speaking engagements, science workshops, and her online business.
This summer, Temple served as a 2023 Girl Scout National Convention motivational speaker with a clear message to girls: Never stop dreaming and doing.
“Just being in Girl Scouts has taught me so many things that go along with how to run a business,” said Temple, a Girl Scout for 10 years. Her mother is her troop leader. “We start out as little girls selling cookies, learning how to promote our boxes and ourselves, and dealing with economics from a very early age. But also learning about teamwork.”
She said it was an incredible experience to speak and host at the convention, where she met Girl Scouts and future leaders from across the globe.
Her message to them: Never give up when people say you can’t do something or you don’t look like you’re supposed to be there. Just keep going.
Aneli Nugteren, COO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, said the council has watched Temple grow her leadership and business skills over the years in her pursuit to make the world a better place.
“She’s not only blazing her own trail in STEM, but she is determined to bring other girls along with her,” Nugteren said. “Having her featured at the Girl Scout National Convention was a proud moment for us and an inspiring one for the next generation of scientists.”
To cap off her Girl Scouting involvement, Temple is working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, the club’s highest achievement. She will be interviewing female scientists worldwide for a podcast on her website. Temple said she wants other girls to hear from women – even those they’ve never heard about – who are doing incredible things in the sciences.
“My whole thing about my company and movement is exposure,” she said, “exposing girls and minorities to STEM so that they know that there’s more out there.”
HOW TO HELP
Learn more about Temple Lester and STEM Girl Swag and STEM Swag Box at justtemple.com.
STEM Swag Box science kits are geared toward elementary and middle school students.