Spotlight on Anthonette Peña & Southeast San Diego STEAM Café

Profile picture of Anthonette Peña
Anthonette Peña

To start with, can you tell us in a nutshell about your Teen Café program? What’s special or unique about it?

Our program is hosted at the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS), a local STEM non-profit in Southeast San Diego. What makes our Teen Café program special is that we have a 15,000 ft building with 8 labs and a theater to host our events. Many of our teens have participated in other programs at EIS.

What’s your background… how did you come to be involved with your Teen Café program?

I am the Education Director at the Elementary Institute of Science. I became involved with the Teen Café because I was looking for programs to offer students that are not too old to participate in our traditional afterschool, Saturday, and camp programs.

Picture of teen leaders at San Diego Teen Science Café
Southeast San Diego Teen Science Café Leadership Team

What organization provides a home for your Teen Café program?  How do you see your program fitting with that organization’s mission?

The Elementary Institute of Science (EIS) is the home for our Teen Café program. EIS is a non-profit dedicated to providing STEM opportunities to ALL students. This program fits with our mission because all high school students, regardless of prior knowledge and experiences in STEM, are encouraged to participate.

What’s the biggest stumbling block you have encountered as your program has developed?

Maintaining a consistent meeting time with the Teens has been challenging. High School students are so busy with all their other commitments!

What has been your favorite Café? What made it so?

My favorite café was the on Ocean Acidification. We had over 75 students participate and they were all engaged!

Students discuss the effect ocean acidification could have on the health of shellfish or organisms that rely on calcium carbonate in the world’s oceans and how humans are effected.
Students soak seashells in vinegar to simulate the weakening effect of ocean acidification and tested the strength of the vinegar soaked seashells versus normal shells.


















What do you like best about your program in general?

We have flexibility to make the café work with the schedules of our student leaders. Also, it provides students leadership opportunities they might not necessarily have in the traditional school setting.

Do you have any advice for those just starting their own Teen Cafés? 

Teens are hungry all the time! Keep feeding them and they’ll keep coming!

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