I find it unfair that people in the world live without their basic needs met. It is especially frustrating because my family in Ethiopia lives without one of these basic needs: access to clean water.

In Ethiopia, most people receive their water from unsanitary ponds shared by animals. As in many developing countries, the current water infrastructures in place create hygiene and sanitation health concerns. Hygiene, probably the most essential factor in human health, has been an area of little emphasis by international aid organizations. My family has told me stories about traveling eight hours to collect water, just to come up shorthanded with dirty water.

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I experienced this hardship myself when I visited the region of Ethiopia from which my family emigrated: I became sick with a stomachache from water that I drank after getting baptized. The water was out of a well, and while it was a mistake not to drink bottled water, something can be done so this doesn’t happen to anyone.

Since then, I have wanted to affect change in how to provide clean drinking water in developing countries, especially for my country, Ethiopia. More specifically, I want to help develop a reservoir system for the country.

STEM in Colorado | A Chalkbeat special report

PART 1: Little access to STEM education
PART 2: St. Vrain goes all in on STEM
PART 3: What the heck is STEM?
PART 4: A scrappy STEM school with something to prove
FIRST PERSON: How my STEM education is going to help me get clean drinking water in Ethiopia
HOW I TEACH STEM: An award-winning science teacher shares her classroom practices.
HOW I TEACH STEM: An award winning fourth-grade teacher shares her classroom practices.
The Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado provided financial support for this series.

I can achieve this goal only if I learn as much as possible in my science, math, engineering and technology classes. Then, I will have the tools needed to work effectively in international development.

The concepts incorporated in the idea of creating a sanitary environment with clean water in Ethiopia will require a system involving various types of engineering.

Creating a water infrastructure system in Ethiopia would provide benefits to a large population, and in the long run would set an example for other leaders to spread the movement across the continent of Africa. There would be many other benefits of this system including empowerment of the Ethiopian people, especially for the children. I want them to know that they can make positive changes in their own communities.

I can’t think of anything that would be more satisfying than seeing this through — especially in my family’s home country. And I would have no chance of making it come true without a STEM education.

STEM is bigger than just learning; it’s what will create the future world. That’s why it requires students to become better advocates for themselves and to be able to work cooperatively with others.

From a competitive standpoint, I admire the challenges that STEM brings to me because it helps me establish the critical thinking that I’ll need to fulfill my aspirations.

While I was reluctant to join Rangeview’s STEM program my freshman year, I realized my goals would be incomplete without it. After I joined, I have not looked back. It gives me great pride to carry on the legacy of what it means to be a problem solver in this increasingly competitive world.

If I succeed in building a better water management system in Ethiopia, I hope to come full circle and give back to Rangeview High School and its STEM department, which has empowered me in my creativity, decision making, and teamwork skills to actively solve a problem.

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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.