Ascension Parish community photo gallery for Nov. 5, 2015 _lowres

Photo provided by Debbie Cambre -- Gonzales Primary Stem Gems -- Stem Gems at Gonzales Primary School learned about the five main layers of the ocean on Oct. 16, 2015. Dunbar, founder of the Stem Gems mentoring project, meets bi-monthly with the school’s fourth- and fifth-grade girls to develop their interests in math, science and engineering principles to pique their interest in pursuing STEM-related careers and academics. In front from left are Shaniyah Anderson, Alyvia Hall, Sarah Wright, Alexandra Lisea, Angellee Lemon, Chanci Mollen, Jalaeh Camese and Khai Walker; and in back are Assistant Principal Roddy Melancon, Principal Jaimee Williams, Trinity Moses, Jamyria Levy, Jamiriah Clayton, Janaya Northern, Kera Harris, Diamond Bailey and Dunbar.

Thursday, Feb. 21 is National Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a day focused on inspiring young women to pursue professions in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM. Our goal today, and every day, should be to spark girls’ interest in STEM and open their minds to careers they may not have considered.

According to research conducted by the American Association of University Women, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field, with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in these areas. The research shows that from an early age, women’s interest in these fields is greatly impacted and influenced by the people around them. To overcome stereotypes and gender bias, we need role models willing to mentor young minds.

I know this firsthand. When I was in fifth grade, my mother gave me my first chemistry set and encouraged me to experiment. That same year, my fifth-grade teacher, Tammy Woods, introduced me to inquiry-based learning and fostered my love of discovery and while feeding my inquisitive mind. Without their mentorship and support early on, I may not have ever pursued a foundation in STEM and the subsequent opportunities it provided.

After working as a chemist, I became a high school engineering teacher, where I played a supporting role in instructing and inspiring the next generation. Today, as the public affairs manager for Chevron Gulf of Mexico, I’m fortunate to oversee our contributions to programs and partnerships that nurture a passion for STEM — everything from school supply drop-offs to robotics competitions to summer science camps. But it takes more than money. Our employees understand the value of volunteerism and mentorship. Each year, we invest thousands of hours in the community and showing kids how STEM plays a vital role in their future success.

One need look no further than last year’s Chevron Design Challenge to see that it’s working. During the event, ninth- through 12th-grade students were presented with an engineering-related problem and used their knowledge of STEM and creativity to design solutions in a short time. Numerous young women participated in the competition, with the top prize going to an all-girls team from Lusher Charter School.

STEM Café introduces students to benefits of science, technology, engineering, math education

We still have work to do. On this Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, I encourage you — as a professional, teacher, parent or friend — to invest in the young women who can become the future STEM workforce. Whether visiting a classroom, inviting students to come to your workplace, or encouraging your employees to volunteer their time, I challenge you to make a positive impact on young women’s minds in 2019 through mentorship.

Leah Brown

Chevron Gulf of Mexico Business Unit