Girls learn about STEM careers during summer program
Norwich — At Three Rivers Community College on Monday, teenage girls and adults teaching them about careers in science, technology, engineering and math gathered around a table to make necklaces using patterns of beads to signify words in Morse code.
The participants of the STEM summer program had just heard from Elizabeth Peterson, an electrical engineer at Electric Boat, about how to identify their values to help choose a career. She explained what an engineer does and what she likes about her career, including being able to make a difference and performing interesting work.
Earlier in the day, the girls participated in relay races, games and yoga, and heard a talk from a cybersecurity expert.
S.T.E.P.S., Inc., a Groton-based nonprofit organization which stands for Striving Toward Empowered Personal Success and whose mission is to empower young women, is holding the four-week summer college and career enrichment program, focused on STEM, along with the National Council of Negro Women and Soroptimist International Connecticut Shoreline.
Amanda Stanberry, 16, and Alexis Wheeler, 15, both of Mystic, who became friends after meeting at the program on Monday, were helping each other as they created their Morse code necklaces.
After listening to a talk from cybersecurity specialist Migdalia Wills earlier in the day, Stanberry said she had learned about the importance of being yourself, and she was making connections in the STEM field.
Wheeler said she was learning about colleges and different opportunities. She said it’s important to try new things.
“If you push yourself to try new things then you could learn more and you can have more fun than you think you would,” she said.
S.T.E.P.S., Inc. received a $150,000 Summer Enrichment Innovation Grant from the state Department of Education for the program.
The program, which runs through Aug. 6 and is being held at local college campuses, is offering STEM workshops in which girls aged 16 to 19 learn from professionals working in STEM fields and engage in STEM-based activities, such as building drones. The girls also participate in activities, such as yoga and meditation, for their wellbeing after the COVID-19 pandemic. The group also goes on field trips and college tours. Spaces are still available for girls to join the program.
S.T.E.P.S. Executive Director Beatrice Jennette said that during the COVID-19 pandemic there was not an opportunity to go on college tours, so organizers want to make sure the girls now get to visit colleges and schools with strong STEM programs so they see what is available not just locally, but also in neighboring states.
She said they are trying to show the girls that nothing is impossible. Every day, a professional with a STEM career is sharing with the girls what their career is like.
STEM was chosen as the theme for the summer enrichment program because the growing field offers a sustainable future, said Jennette.
Fernanda Reyes, 20, an intern who is studying Allied Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut-Storrs, said that growing up she was taught by her mother about how important STEM is and how women are needed in the field.
She said she felt like a role model for some of the younger students and she was able to explain things to them about college, including about meal plans and financial aid and tips not taught on college tours, such as how to get cheaper textbooks through Facebook groups.
Gabby Fedus, 16, of Montville, who is participating in the program, said she had already learned on her first day a lot about teamwork and about college and a career.
Fedus, who is in the biotech trade at Norwich Technical High School, said she liked being around other women in the STEM field during the program.
Toni Xu, 17, of Uncasville, said she wasn’t sure what major she was going to be in college before, but now she is interested in finance and business.
“I think this opportunity gives me a lot of time to think about what I’m going to do in the future,” she said.
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