To Top

Life & Work with Cynthia Chapple

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Chapple.

Cynthia, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Hi. My last name is pronounced ch-“apple”. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, as 1 of 8 children. Chocolate is my favorite thing to eat all the time for no reason at all. I attended Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis for my undergraduate degrees in Forensic and Investigative Science and Chemistry. I subsequently returned to school and received a Master of Science in Chemistry in 2015. I worked for a state crime lab and also very different industries such as and my most recent employer in the manufacturing industry and electrical coatings market as Senior Research and Development Chemist.

In 2015, I launched Black Girls Do STEM is an online social awareness initiative centering the accomplishments of Black women in STEM and calling for visibility on the issue on underrepresentation of this same demographic in the STEM workforce. In 2018 I began doing STEM workshops in communities with Black girls, unbeknownst to me it was needed, and people were more than interested in supporting it.

Therefore, Black Girls Do STEM became a 501c3 incorporated not-for-profit organization in March of 2019 offering a full range STEM programming or 6th-9th grade Black girls. Most recently in 2020, I have launched a full-scale beauty brand Black Velvet Spa, a luxury spa brand that is sure to relax, excite and leave you with velvety smooth skin, as a long-term strategy for sustainability of Black Girls Do STEM. My idea around gender and racial equity are deeply personal and pulled from my own experiences as a Black woman throughout my educational and professional pursuits in STEM. So

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The challenges I have faced have been around access to STEM programs as a young Black girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, or undergraduate student working several jobs while going to school juggling class and work, or the graduate student, tutoring to make ends meet all the way to the professional who continuously felt isolated and single out in a space void of other minorities and often other women.

The work of Black Girls Do STEM came about as a reflection of all of these challenges, for me deciding I could provide what I needed at multiple stages of the journal to make it somewhat more commonplace or simpler for Black girls coming behind me. I stay focused by being very disciplined and never forgetting my why. That requires a commitment to self-care, where I spend time journaling, meditating, taking a spa day and refreshing my mental state to not get burnt out.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Black Girls Do STEM considers ourselves an educational equity focused organization, placing equity at the center of what we do. We transfer STEM education to curate culturally safe, expansive and resilient spaces for Black girls to learn and heal while decolonizing STEM. By focusing on parent and student advocacy we hope to make STEM commonplace and widely accepted as something that is as much a part of the Black experience in America as anything else.

This requires that we acknowledge poor educational options being offered to Black and Brown youth and advocate against them and for better educational access even as we conduct our program. We don’t simply teach STEM, we transform what Black girls think, see and believe of themselves, their communities, their schools and their capacity to be innovators and change the world.

The practical application of exploring STEM whether it be our fashion technology workshop or our cosmetic chemistry workshop we have been able to show girls how STEM can be incorporated into very real aspects of their everyday lives. Also, by sharing my personal experiences and stories within STEM educationally and professionally I can help share the joy of curiosity and the belief that if I can create the world around me, so can they.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
My favorite app is by far audible, because I like to read, learn and grow but really don’t have so much time these days. I don’t have a favorite blog, but my favorite podcast is Brene Brown unlocking us and Dare to Lead, because I am trying to manifest my two top core values of authenticity and courage and lead from a place of vulnerability. My current favorite book is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi because it was the last fictional book that I read that centered on blackness and fantasy, so well written. As a kid, I loved Harry Potter fantasy novels.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Mena Derre SIUE

Suggest a Story: VoyageSTL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories