HCISD encourages girls to join STEM

By Sahar Chmais

Nearly three fourths of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) jobs are occupied by men. Educators in Hays CISD decided it was time to step in to entice more women to join these fields which yield high income.

Several Hays CISD teachers created a Women in STEM group at Lehman High School to increase enrollment and interest in the wide range of these courses.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there,” said Jeehyun Park, the founding sponsor for Women in STEM. “We want to give girls the resources, confidence and skills they might need to navigate those careers. There are so many job opportunities in STEM, particularly in engineering and computer science that have low female enrollment and participation.”

Park wants her students to know that tech companies have increased opportunities to allow diverse groups of people in. If a male and female with exactly the same qualifications submit an application, a woman is more likely to get the job, Park said.

While there are many opportunities in this field, Lehman High School was seeing very small enrollment numbers of girls, especially Hispanic girls, in STEM course. The school decided to put on an event showcasing all the classes and groups students can participate in. They invited kids from all over the district and encouraged younger students to attend.

Booths were spread along the school’s gym and into the hallways to give insight on all the potential courses students can sign up for. They added games, anatomical features such as real inflatable pig lungs, rats and more. There were candy giveaways and opportunities to buy small plants.

But most of the interactions at the booths were student-to-student.

One Lehman student said she joined her biology class to be with her friends, but through it she found her love for biology and science. Serenity Williams was sitting at a biology booth with several friends, welcoming curious students and enjoying her time with friends.

“I thought it would be a great idea to share my passion with others and inspire them to have the same pathways as me,” Williams said. “I plan on being a brain surgeon.”

Not everyone knows what they want to do coming into high school, so events like this are opening up different options, said Lead Robertson, a Biomedical Science teacher.

Exploring these options is one step, but the other step is for kids to realize that science is not about being perfect, sometimes it is about trying something new, said the Aquatic Science teacher Laura Villalobos. In high school, Villalobos said she did not think she did well in science.

Since starting the program, Villalobos said there has been a noticeable increase in girls joining STEM courses. Many of the booths in the event were run by girls, especially Hispanic girls.

“It does seem that we have more girls interested in joining other programs,” Villalobos said. “Like the robotics team, or physics, things like that which are more geared toward engineering and hard sciences.”

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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