Recently, there has been a trend in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to encourage young women to pursue these types of careers professionally during and after college. While the numbers of women joining the STEM field has risen, it seems as though there are still groups that lack the encouragement and resources necessary to be able to choose to pursue that as well.
Underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations tend not to choose to pursue careers in the STEM fields due to general lack of access to the proper education or programs that encourage exploring these career options. Programs like the Long Island STEM Hub, We Connect the Dots, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) look to influence minority populations like women and people of color by showing how STEM is important in real life, and how careers in such fields are obtainable.
We Connect the Dots (WCTD) is a program that encourages students into STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art and math—fields through facilitating engagement with other students, and working to change the perception of what STEAM is. They also try to show how technology is changing jobs, and what skills will be needed in the future to keep up with these changes.
“It’s all about learning how to embrace technology in positive ways, and learning how to be a lifelong learner,” Laurie Carey, the executive director of WCTD said. “Encouraging students to pursue STEAM fields can only have positive impacts on our future and the future of these students.”
WCTD is sponsoring a summer program called CreatingSTEAM, where students learn how to build a 3-D printer, and create blueprints to print devices that will help solve a problem they have noticed. Amanda, a high school student from Long Island, loves the program.
“It helps me meet people that I can stay in contact with and we can help support each other,” Amanda said. “I want to work in social media and learning about how to code and work with others is valuable experience.”
Rhaming, a middle school student from the Bronx, aspires to be in the business sphere, and knows that technology is an ever-growing part of it. “It is good to know as much as possible about technology, because the more you know the more successful you can become,” Rhaming said. “We all know what a big part technology plays in life so I am trying to take advantage of programs like these and learn everything I can so I can be successful after school.”
The Long Island STEM Hub is also involved in encouraging youth, from elementary school ages all the way to university students, into STEM fields. The Hub holds events that help teachers and students understand jobs in STEM, how academics are related to them, and what opportunities are available to them.
“There are young people who are starting to understand and feel the excitement of the types of jobs, kids doing research and finding new opportunities they didn’t previously know about,” said Ken White, co-steward of the Long Island STEM Hub.
The Hub holds four-week programs for underrepresented minorities in the ninth and tenth grade to encourage their involvement in STEM, and give them a better idea of what jobs and industries are benefited through having STEM knowledge. In these programs, students meet with scientists and watch and participate in work with the experts. Through these programs, the Hub hopes to “align and make sure that as the industries grow, [they] are preparing young people to keep students on the island and help make businesses successful.”
The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) is a statewide program that is funded by the New York State Education Department, with the overall goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM fields by introducing and exposing college students to gateway math and science programs. Freshmen orientation programs, workshops for upperclassmen about how to apply for graduate school, and research opportunities at the Brookhaven National Laboratory help get students involved in the programs offered at the SUNY College at Old Westbury and beyond. CSTEP serves around 7,900 students throughout New York State, and 328 participants in the Old Westbury program.
“The support that the program provides [the students] is like a family and they stick together and encourage each other,” said Monique Clark, the program’s codirector.
These programs have been influential in bringing minorities to STEM fields, and students have responded well in the previous years. The programs all hope to be able to continue to grow and influence minorities and economically disadvantaged young adults into STEM fields in coming years as successfully as they have been.