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Spokane STEM Leadership Highlight: Jill Johnson

Who are you, your company/organization?

I currently serve as the Public Relations Director for Community-Minded Enterprises (CME), a Spokane based nonprofit with a staff of more than 50 with offices in Spokane and Pasco. I’ve  been with CME for nearly 12 years, working for various programs including community access television and early learning.  I also coordinate the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance.  I am a proud cancer survivor, half marathon finisher and Whitworth College graduate.

What role/or industry do you represent on the STEM Executive Committee?

I primarily represent early learning.  It is my passion. I also bring the lens of a nonprofit to this group as well as media as a former news producer.

What does STEM mean to you? And why do you feel STEM is important? 

I got excited about STEM when the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance received a grant to create STEM kits for pre-kindergarten children, their families and child care providers. The Spokane County Library District led this work and I was lucky enough to attend the curriculum writing meetings. Being around early learning professionals I learned how sorting blocks by color was math.  Or that stacking blocks, making a hypothesis like “how high can you get before the blocks fall” was science. Intentional play that gets kids comfortable with STEM at an early age. By giving young children a STEM experience, we set them up for success later in life. Why wouldn’t you love STEM?

Looking ahead, what would 1-2 things would you like to see happen in Spokane?

I’d like to see more STEM kits in the hands young children and families. I’d like to see parents who maybe had a bad experience with STEM come to love it, and be empowered to share it with their kids. I also think there is an opportunity to educate the Spokane community about the importance of STEM and its positive impact.

Why is it important to have a regional leadership team for statewide work?

We are stronger together. I always appreciate the chance to tell the early learning STEM story and I appreciate being at the table, learning, and collaborating with others. To be effective we can’t be siloed. 

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