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Bringing Storytelling and STEM Together

November 24, 2020

Hubert Galan-Vargas always loved math and science. In high school he took AP science classes and participated in summer research programs. “I’ve always been a STEM head. I didn’t vibe with writing.” It was a fortuitous day then, when Hubert joined an 826 Boston College Essay Boot Camp in the summer of 2018. “I really got along with my mentor. We had pizzait was so helpful.” That college essay would go on to help Hubert matriculate Dartmouth College, where he’s now a sophomore studying Pre-Med. 

Flash forward to the spring of 2020, when Hubert was looking for something different to do for his summer after spending the last few doing scientific research. He remembered meeting Nakia Hill, 826 Boston’s Writers’ Room Director, and other tutors at the College Essay Boot Camp he attended, and he wondered about returning to 826 Boston for an internship. “We’re in a pandemic—I asked myself how can I contribute in a meaningful way to my community? I knew that 826 was in Roxbury, and I live down the street,” Hubert said. 

During his eight-week internship at 826 Boston, Hubert juggled many projects. At first he worked on the COVID-19 reopening plan. He attended internal and city-wide meetings and stayed up to date on the latest decision making, using his pre-med background to help compile resources. Then, he transitioned to working on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysisreading through dozens of stakeholder testimonies to assist with 826 Boston’s strategic planning process.

For Hubert’s final project, he decided to do a research project that could bring together storytelling and public health data to demonstrate the link between access to education and health disparities. “All the political unrest made me more conscious of learning about the history of medicine, institutional racism, and racism in medicine,” Hubert said. The medical field and storytelling weren’t always disciplines that Hubert put together, but they have become an important combination to him over the past few months. 826 Boston Executive Director Jessica Drench encouraged Hubert to infuse narrative into his research, and the challenge excited him. “As of right now, my STEM classes don’t talk about stories that much, but health is such a complicated field. Things that have to do with health disparities and contemporary issues—it’s most effective to learn about them through stories and not just numbers. Numbers can mean nothing, but stories are so powerful. If I become a doctor one day, if I succeed in my endeavors, when I’m with my patients they are going to be storytelling—telling me their history and their life.” 

The resources Hubert compiled during his internship at 826 Boston, as well as his research and subsequent infographic, were used to help train and inform new 826 Boston AmeriCorps service members this fall. With his internship now over, Hubert is taking virtual college classes and keeping up with a close group of friends online. He’s still a self-described ‘STEM head’ but he’s looking for more ways to tie together storytelling and medicine in his studies, focusing particularly on disparities in access to healthy food and education.

“It’s funny because 826 really focuses on education as it relates to writing. I’ve come to appreciate my access to education. I’m the youngest of six, and the first to go to college. Going through that process alone was kind of terrifying. It almost felt like I couldn’t do it. Now that I am in college I feel like the trajectory of my life is much different from my siblings—just because I had access to education… I feel like education is such an important thing for people, especially low-income people who don’t often have access to as many educational opportunities.” 

This year at 826 Boston, we’ll be bringing you more inspiring stories of 826 Boston alumni and how writing has played an important role in their lives since graduating from our programs. 

If you or someone you know is interested in being a part of our internship program or would like to get involved with 826 Boston, please visit https://826boston.org/get-involved/ or email info@826boston.org.  

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