Young environmental scientist Dorothy Jean Tillman garnered national attention when she received her master’s degree at 14-years-old.
Now, the Chicago teen is breaking into entrepreneurship by exposing more youth to opportunities in STEAM. She’s giving more Chicago youth a headstart in life by showing them what’s possible.
“I know, one thing that I would want every kid to know is that what I did is an option and that they can do it too,” said Tillman to Rolling Out. “It doesn’t take a genius or someone who has been learning forever. I’m not perfect. I’m not the smartest person in the world. It just takes dedication.”
From Environment Scientist to Entrepreneur
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is a growing field and Tillman wants more youth to know how they can get involved.
The 14-year-old has always had a passion for STEM, obtaining high rankings in all those subjects in school. This inspired her to pursue a master’s degree at Unity College. Tillman made history as the youngest environmental and sustainable scientist in the U.S. Her desire to expand opportunities is stronger than ever since COVID-19 has eliminated many traditional activities for youth.
“I’ve been working on STEM labs for kids because I really want to go into the STEM-related field and work with kids,” Tillman told Rolling Out prior to earning her master’s degree. “I feel like I’m here to make people happy and to help people find their purpose. I might go back to school, but my plan is to be an entrepreneur and [use] my engineering degree.”
The Launch of a STEAM Camp
Tillman expanded her STEAM vision through the launch of the Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Camp. All teens who participate in the camp will receive a customizable at-home STEAM activity kit. It’s one of the components of Tillman’s business, the Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Education Leadership Institute that was launched in 2020. The young entrepreneur founded the STEAM Labs in Chicago and West Capetown, South Africa.
“A teen is a teen no matter where they are from,” says Tillman in a statement. “We all love TIKTOK and many enjoy hip hop. The key is showing them where the STEAM is in everyday life.”
Tillman’s brilliant idea provides safe education and enrichment opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kit includes science-focused projects, creative arts, and coding to give students access to different skills and career options. It also builds in mindfulness activities to help teems maintain mental wellness.
“People learn at different paces. One of our kits can last up to 6 months, even longer depending on STEAM knowledge and skill set,” Tillman explains in a statement.
Teens who receive a kit also become members of the STEAM camp, providing another opportunity to network with other young STEAM achievers.
Using Her Education to Make a Difference
Tillman has enjoyed many unique and trailblazing experiences during her 14 years of life.
She enrolled in college at the age of 10 and completed a Bachelor of Science in Humanities in 2018. She’s also received numerous awards and honors including the 2021 WVON 40 Under 40 Gamechangers and a 2018 Black Girls Rock award.
But what matters most to this young teen today is using her education as an environmental scientist to make a difference. She led a Jeopardy-inspired virtual STEAM game show to commemorate Dr. King Holiday. She’s also hosted a virtual STEAM fair and business pitch competition to award scholarship dollars. Through the Dorothy Jeanius Camp, teens in Chicago will get a chance to work with youth and gain exposure to STEAM-related career opportunities.
There’s no doubt that Tillman’s path as an environmental scientist and entrepreneur will inspire more youth to achieve excellence and give back.