Here's how Zendaya is helping kids aspire to careers in STEM
As Zendaya’s career continues to skyrocket, she’s become a mini mogul of sorts, launching her own shoe and clothing line, Daya by Zendaya, and amassing a number of campaigns, including landing a spot in Dolce & Gabbana’s recent millennial-inspired SS17 ads earlier this year.
But, even with all of her success in the entertainment industry, the K.C. Undercover star, who is the daughter of teachers, wants teens to know that there are more career options out there than those in front of the camera.
Thus, Zendaya teamed up with Verizon for the company’s #WeNeedMore campaign, which encourages students to explore the many career possibilities that exist within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. To drive that point home, the 20-year-old actress helped take high school students behind the scenes at Capitol Studios Wednesday, where she and her audio engineer, Joshua Florez, showed them how she records music and how he helps bring her songs to life.
To kick things off, Zendaya took the podium a light blue Polite denim jacket complete with feathers on the back and “I need you” on one sleeve. She paired it with a white top, rolled-up, high waist skinny jeans and black sneakers. “We’re going to have some fun!,” she told the group of 13- and 14-year-olds, after asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“Being a singer, a dancer, an actor or maybe an athlete is usually what everyone says they want to be, so it was cool that you said you want to be something else,” Zendaya told them, after they gave answers from everything from a lawyer to a computer scientist. “I feel like you opened your mind and can see other options and other paths out there.”
After Zendaya spoke, half of the students went into the studio with her and slipped on headphones. A few of the girls sang a song with Zendaya as she rocked out, while some of the boys went into the room with Florez to get the lowdown on the song mixing.
Everyone eventually got a chance to croon with Zendaya, and Florez showed all of them how he alters the sound of songs, adds auto tune and more, once they finished.
As the event came to an end, the students had one special request—that Zendaya bring down her 1-year-old pup Noon, who her fans have become smitten with thanks to her photos of him on Instagram. “He loves attention,” she told them when he arrived and she cradled him in her arms.
As for why it was important for Zendaya to be a part of the #weneedmore campaign, she told InStyle, “Usually anything with young people really inspires me, but this directly affects young people in school, and especially in the underserved and underprivileged communities. I think that’s so important because that’s where my parents taught.”
Zendaya’s mom was a fifth grade teacher in Oakland who “worked very hard” to get technology in her classroom, set up a computer lab, and taught her students how to use iMovie, and more. “I got to witness firsthand how much that can affect a young person, how much that can open their eyes to certain things that they may not even know exist at the time,” she said.
“It’s just kind of opening their eyes to other jobs, and other things that they can be involved in that maybe otherwise they wouldn’t even know exist, which I think is really cool,” she continued. “I’ve always been lucky that I’ve been able to have two parents that exposed me to that. But not every kid has that. Not every kid even has a teacher that’s going to go above and beyond to expose that to them. So that’s why programs like this are really important.”
Zendaya, who is signed to Republic Records, said while she was hanging out with the students at the event, one of the teens struck her when she asked what career paths they were interested in.
“He was like, ‘I’ve been thinking about that … but after being here for a while, I probably want to work here,’” she said. “That’s the whole point of why we’re doing this … for kids to see this and be like, ‘Wow, wait a minute, that’s actually really cool.’ You mean I can do this as a job and get paid to do this? Heck yeah, I want to be an engineer.”
This article originally appeared in InStyle.