Naugatuck Valley Community College’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program) and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Division partnered with the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) on November 6 to host the fourth Girls and STEM Expo. More than 100 tenth-grade female GEAR UP students visited the NVCC campus for STEM-related activities to foster awareness of STEM careers, encourage young women to explore STEM-related subjects in high school and beyond and to provide resources to female students which will prepare them for success in college.
“There isn’t a career for women and a career for men. All careers are for those who have the inclination and the talent,” said NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. “Being able to see what opportunities are there, and what can be learned or created or taught in math and science at an early age—like now—is the best opportunity you can have.”
“There are amazing things you can do with the power tools of a STEM education,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) told the young women. “This is really about you—providing you the tools that you need to decide your future, to address the problems you want to address.”
NVCC professors delivered hands-on workshops which included utilizing computer-aided design to create a custom 3-D design, planting and designing a salad bowl at the College’s greenhouse and studying the spread of disease in a simulated “zombie outbreak.”
“There is a great need to increase the number of women in the STEM workforce,” said NVCC STEM Division Director Peter Angelastro, Ph.D. “This event gives us an opportunity to introduce the GEAR UP students to the types of activities they could perform in one of the many STEM careers. My hope is that this experience will spark an interest in STEM careers as these 10th graders are likely starting to decide how they want to spend their future.”
On average, nontraditional STEM jobs pay 20-30 percent more than traditional female occupations, according to CWEALF’s Generating Girls’ Opportunities (G2O) initiative. In addition, organizers point out that having more women in STEM fields maximizes innovation, creativity and competitiveness, thus contributing to the economic vitality of Greater Waterbury and beyond.
“The Girls in STEM event is a wonderful experience for our young women,” said NVCC Bridge to College Director David Celotto. “To get the opportunity to learn from seasoned STEM faculty and staff is priceless. We hope to leave a lasting impact on the opportunities STEM can provide our young women in the future.”
Administered through NVCC’s Bridge to College Office, GEAR UP is a seven-year, state-funded grant program designed to significantly increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in college by providing early intervention, testing, advising and academic and social support.