Who knows what can be sparked in these girls?” said Azalea Middle School Principal Dr. Connie Kolosey May 16 at the second annual Women in STEM breakfast.
About 40 seventh and eighth grade female students met with nearly 15 professional women from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Science Center located next to the school on 22nd Avenue N.
After a continental buffet breakfast, clipboards, No. 2 pencils and a one-page list of 11 questions designed to inspire conversations were distributed to each student.
Their assignment? Talk to three different professionals who were representing career fields such as engineering, architecture and pharmacy.
The school system “is pushing STEM from here out,” said Mike McCullough, lead teacher for the engineering magnet program at the school and organizer of the event.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“I want them to think STEM through high school and beyond,” he said.
The magnet program has formal relationships with local corporations like Raytheon and General Electric whose employees volunteer to help with activities such as the rocket club.
McCullough also networked with friends and fellow teachers to locate professionals for the breakfast.
Two civil engineers from the city of Clearwater attended the event. Tara Kivett, a civil engineer construction manager, and Jennifer Shannon, an engineer specializing in stormwater sat at separate round tables each equipped with three empty chairs. For about 20 minutes, they answered questions and provided encouragement.
“What inspired you to choose the career you chose?” asked Vernice Morales, a seventh grader.
“My grandfather was an engineer,” said Kivett. “Back then, a college degree was not required. He had a lot of field experience.”
Kivett graduated from Vanderbilt University.
“Stay in school,” she said. “I got a lot of Cs and some Ds but I made it through. A college degree will allow you to make more money for yourself and your families.”
At Shannon’s table, three seventh graders all in the advanced musical theater program, tag-teamed her to complete the question list.
“What do you think is most important for me to know as I choose my path to a career?” asked Cadence Kinsey.
“Surround yourself with people you enjoy, then what you do or don’t do doesn’t matter,” Shannon said. “Choose a career you like and a decent pay check will follow.”
Seventh grader Sydney Hilton summed up her interview with Shannon and expectation for the breakfast. “I’m getting an understanding of how I can enjoy different jobs. If I don’t like one career, I can go to the next one.”