Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton has launched pilot programs at two Fayette County middle schools, Leestown and Tates Creek, for seventh-grade girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
When girls are exposed to the disciplines commonly called STEM, “they are less likely to be dissuaded or discouraged from pursuing careers” in those areas, said Hampton, who went to Leestown this week with officials with the Kentucky Commission on Women, which is financing the effort.
Only 24 percent of people in those careers in the United States are women, state officials said.
Hampton has an industrial engineering degree from Wayne State University and worked as a computer systems officer in the U.S. Air Force.
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The program, called the Lieutenant Governor’s STEM Challenge for Girls, accepted 33 students. The girls received lab coats Tuesday night in preparation for the first full after-school session. The sessions will start at the two schools during the first week of February.
During six sessions at each school from 4 to 6 p.m. on one day every other week, professionals in science, technology, engineering and math will meet with the girls. The girls will also spend part of the two hours on STEM projects.
Melissa Graham, the science department chairwoman at Leestown, said the goal is for the after-school program to expand statewide. By 2018, 71 percent of all jobs will require STEM skills, state officials said, citing statistics showing that women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more in 2014 than those in non-STEM jobs.
Graham said each student filled out an application explaining why she wanted to be part of the after-school program.
Seventh-grade student Rosa Smith said on her application that it would bring her closer “to achieving my lifelong job goal of becoming a veterinarian, which would require a degree in science and math.”
Some of the girls who will be in the program are already enrolled in the pre-engineering program at Leestown. They carried out chemistry experiments this week.
The new pilot program, Graham said, is “going to show girls that it doesn’t matter what your gender is, that you can be successful in a STEM occupation.”