The following interview is part of a week-long STEM Matters series produced by Ashoka Changemakers, “the world’s fast track for social change.” Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!
Cheerleaders don’t always get the credit they deserve. So it might surprise you to hear that there’s a cheerleader out there pursuing a professional career in science engineering.
You read that right. Darlene Cavalier embraces her identity as a cheerleader to advocate for STEM education. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and prior to that, spent part of her tenure at Temple University as a pom-pom shaker for three-time NBA champions, the Philadelphia 76ers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Cavalier pursued her first degree in communications at Temple University, took on cheerleading to supplement her income, and ended up at Discover Magazine, where she would eventually serve as a senior advisor. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, featuring NBA and NFL cheerleaders-turned-scientists and engineers who challenge stereotypes and inspire more people to consider STEM careers. The site has also spawned the popular science portal ScienceForCitizens.net. To add even more dramatic flair to an already fascinating story, she started out in the mail room.
In this exclusive interview with Cavalier, she tells Changemakers about her ascent in the sciences and why she’s chosen STEM education as her new reason to rah-rah.