YAMILÉE TOUSSAINT BEACH
Founder, CEO, STEM From Dance
Jul 13, 2021
There is an old saying that goes, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s funny, but one of its assumptions is that “dancing about” architecture is an absurd idea. Yamilée Toussaint Beach would argue otherwise.
Beach uses dance to inspire and support young women of color from low-income backgrounds to develop the confidence, skills and awareness to obtain STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) degrees. Using seed funding won from Teach For America’s Social Innovation Award, she launched the non-profit STEM From Dance in 2012. Through the program’s school residencies and summer camps, girls choreograph routines that incorporate elements of technology into dance performances. Over the pandemic year alone, girls performed virtually in LED pants that they designed and coded, and they used code to animate names of victims of police brutality in a dance for Black Lives Matter.
Growing up on Long Island, Beach excelled in math and science in school, and after class also dedicated herself to jazz, ballet and modern dance. She would graduate from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering, one of two Black women in the department. She wanted to know why there weren’t more people who looked like her in Cambridge.
Beyond that, fewer than 4 percent of the STEM workforce today are Black or Latina women. This conundrum drove Beach to teach high school algebra in East New York, through Teach For America. It was there that she came face-to-face with the lack of access her students had—to opportunities, resources, encouragement—all adding up to immeasurable loss of potential.
She started STEM From Dance to bring the joy girls derived from dance into some STEM atmospheres that don’t always feel so joyful. In its 2020 annual report, the group announced it has served more than 600 girls to date, from more than 100 schools, 11 states and four countries.