Applications open in the new year for competitive STEM summer program

Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 10:34 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some studies show girls might be steered away from stem careers career as early as third grade.

A group of local young women spent their summer getting wiser about jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math.

As classes closed out at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans in the spring, Liyah Earnest said she never thought of herself as a science person.

“I was like no I’m a writing type of girl,” Earnest said

But when her stellar high school record garnered her a coveted college acceptance, she was ready for the challenge.

“I’m going to Stanford. I just think like a school like that to just limit myself to just one thing and then not trying to branch out and try to explore would just be a waste of an opportunity,” said Earnest.

A local opportunity over the summer allowed her to make the most of what was to come.

Daphine Barnes is the STEM Director for Greater New Orleans Incorporated Regional Economic Development Group or GNO Inc.

“My goal is to create a talent pipeline of STEM workforce and STEM businesses and makes sure we have enough talent for the state’s needs,” Barnes said.

She works to expose area young people to the opportunities available in the field. Barnes said, “We are training our students for those highly coveted jobs that are high paying, and also have a lot of mobility and we want to keep our talent here in the state.”

The organization tapped 22 young women across southeast Louisiana with various backgrounds for the inaugural Women In the STEM Economy mentoring program dubbed WISE.

“We created an entire summer full of different opportunities where they’re able to go into internships, job shadowing, and able to also see what goes into those careers,” Barnes said. “That exposure is important as 2019 National Science Foundation statistics found women receive nearly 60% of bachelor’s degrees in the United States, but make up less than 40% of STEM graduates.”

Urwah Abbas starts early as she enters her junior year at Discovery Academy in Kenner. Abbas is looking to the stars.

“I know many people to this day they still believe that engineering and math and technology is for men, but women also are sparking the interest in STEM careers,” Abbas said. “When I started learning about planetary sciences? I was like, oh, that was very fun. And I wanted to learn more about it. So I did research. I found that there is something that’s in space and medicine and medicine interests me too. So like, why not combine them both.”

Earnest looked forward to expanding her knowledge.

“I’ve always just told myself that’s not who I am. I am not going to do it. But then I took a little step out of the box and I took APES (Advanced Placement Environmental Science) and I realized that is something I like and when I was taking Physics and I was taking Calculus. I do really like this. So I was just you know, excited to see what I could explore,” Earnest said.

Abbas wants to push boundaries.

“Not worry about what other people think. Do what you want to do. Don’t let them, don’t let them stop you from what you want to do,” she said.

For Barnes, it’s all about giving the young ladies a different point of view.

“They don’t see women are in these positions. They don’t think that they can be part of this. And so, homing in on that social emotional part and teaching them that confidence and being able to speak to other women or in these spaces,” said Barnes.

Creates an opportunity to develop wise women ready to make significant strides in the future.

Mentors said they learned a lot as well as having the chance to work with young ladies and women in various fields. GNO Inc. will be taking applications for mentors and mentees in January.

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