STEM Day teaches kids about careers in science

MARIETTA – The fact that more people associate men with working in the criminal justice field than women doesn’t bother Hannah Cooper.

In fact, it has the opposite effect.

“It’s not very common for women to be interested (in the field), so I find it interesting,” the Belpre High School sophomore said prior to a session on criminal justice education and careers Friday at Washington State Community College’s annual “We are STEM Day” program.

More than 60 sophomores from Belpre and Meigs high schools participated in the program. Schools from Washington, Meigs and Morgan counties were invited.

STEM Day grew from the college’s “We are IT Day,” aimed at getting girls interested in traditionally male-dominated fields like information technology. It now includes a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers and the idea of reversing gender imbalances isn’t a one-way proposition.

Meigs sophomore Kenny Cox said he signed up because he’s interested in phlebotomy. It doesn’t give him pause that that and other medical jobs tend to be filled by women more often than men.

“I don’t worry about that kind of stuff,” Cox said.

“Me either,” added fellow Meigs student Robert Gibbs. “If it’s a job, it’s a job. You’re bringing in money to support your family.”

Nearly a dozen boys participated in sessions on careers in respiratory therapy, physical therapy and nursing Friday, while approximately 55 girls learned about criminal justice, engineering and digital media jobs.

Nick Arnold, assistant director of College Tech Prep for Washington State, said Gov. John Kasich has emphasized the importance of STEM careers in Ohio’s continuing economic recovery and growth.

“STEM careers encompass a lot of high-skill, high-wage career fields,” he said.

The $6,500 state grant that funded STEM Day was not renewed, but Arnold said that doesn’t necessarily spell the end for events like Friday’s.

“We’re in the planning stages to look at how we can continue to do this,” he said.

Belpre sophomore Adrienne Blair said she came Friday to get more experience at the college, which she hopes to attend next year as a Post-Secondary Enrollment Option student with the goal of earning an associate’s degree by the time she graduates from high school.

While she appreciated the opportunity, she didn’t need STEM Day to tell her females can succeed in traditionally male fields – she’s been a kicker for Belpre’s football team the last two years.

“I believe that anybody can do any job that they want to,” she said.