Kate Polokonis, 
Executive Director

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Kate is a former teacher with experience in St. Louis public schools and out-of-school STEM programs. Her experiences in the classroom led her to return to graduate school to study social and economic development and social policy as a way to foster change in the systems surrounding education and child wellbeing.

Kate received her MSW from The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. During her graduate career, Kate focused on workforce development. She project managed the launch of Starkloff Disability Institute’s DREAM BIG program, a career-exploration camp for teens with disabilities, from pilot program to full implementation. At Ready by 21, she supported the Regional Youth Employment Coalition and led the research on regional short-term credentialing programs that formed the basis for the online portal Blueprint4Careers. 

Kate has led community-organizing efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline and implement anti-racist and restorative disciplinary policies in districts throughout the St. Louis area. Kate was a Tomorrow Builder Fellow at WEPOWER where she focused on improving governance and coordination in St. Louis’s early-childhood system. Kate is a life-long St. Louis resident and passionate about promoting racial and economic equity in her hometown.

Samantha Minor,
Community Coordinator

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Samantha is a St. Louis native.  She is a product of the Saint Louis public school system and a graduate of Saint Louis University.  Samantha holds a Bachelors of Arts in Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Special Education.

She has always found an interest in all things science. Samantha has a very hands-on approach to learning science and teaching it. “If the concept can be brought to life in the mind, then it will stick with you forever.”

She is also very passionate about early childhood education.  She truly enjoys cultivating an environment that allows young minds to grow and explore. With this passion, Samantha was lead to be an Early Childhood Specialist, serving in the 24:1 footprint. In this role, she trained childcare providers on developmentally appropriate practices within the classroom and assisted providers in receiving their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.

Samantha comes to us from Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, where she served as a Community Troop Manager.  In that role, she formed relationships with staff members of many public schools within the St. Louis Region. She used those relationships to provide direct- service programming on topics such as character building, financial literacy, and STEM. Samantha enjoyed taking the topic of the month and bringing it to life for the girls she served. 

In her role, as Community Coordinator, she plans to continue bringing life to STEM concepts, sharing resources with schools and community partners to enhance the knowledge of today’s youth and improve diversity in the world of STEM.

Mayra Taylor Garcia, 
Programs Manager

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As an educator and a parent, Mayra Taylor Garcia has spent her career working towards educational equity for all children in St. Louis.

She began at Saint Louis Public Schools, where she taught Biology and Biomedical Sciences for 4 years. As a classroom teacher, she saw how students’ exposure and access to high-quality STEM education can be impactful: whether it helps inform their career goals or simply is enjoyable for students and allows them to understand how the world around them works.   

Mayra comes to us from Navigate STL Schools where she served as the organization’s first Director of Family and School Support. In that role, she developed and implemented programming designed to empower families to find the right school fit for their children. She formed connections with schools, community organizations, and diverse St. Louis communities in service of the organization’s mission to close enrollment inequity. In her work there, she saw that many parents are  hungry for more STEM opportunities and there is a need for more access to STEM opportunities. 

Originally from Mexico, Mayra’s introduction to STEM started at a young age with both her parents holding degrees in the STEM field. She remembers learning to pipette at 5 years old, science summer camp where she learned to identify native plants in Wisconsin, and designing her first experimental study in Ecology class as a high school student in Oregon. Her STEM education deeply impacted her during her K-12 years, which led her to pursue a degree in biology. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s in Secondary Education.

She is excited to work towards educational equity within the St. Louis region, specifically by working on system-level solutions with STEMSTL.

Learn more about STEMSTL.

See our current list of community partners.

See current job opportunities.