TEC is for Girls! Inspires middle schoolers through Phoenix College outreach
Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Nichole Spencer
When young students are asked to draw a picture of an engineer, most draw a man in a train or fixing a car. Even female students typically depict scientists as male. But thanks to a grant from the Intel Foundation, the team at Phoenix College (PC) is aiming to change perceptions and inspire young students to explore science-based occupations.
In its second year, the TEC is for Girls! program is reaching out to middle school-aged youth in area school districts, including Osborn, Isaac, Cartwright and Pensar Academy, in an effort to engage them in science at an earlier age. Last year, PC partnered with South Mountain and Gateway Community Colleges to expand their initial reach, which now includes seven area middle schools. Sixth through eighth grade participants are paired with mentor college students who are pursuing STEM degrees, and all are invited to a TEC (technology, engineering and computing) conference at PC.
At the conference, students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on science activities, tour the campus, and hear from Latina professionals who are working in the STEM field. These annual conferences give students a chance to bond with their mentors while getting comfortable on a college campus.
During the school year, mentors visit the schools every week to help youth build content knowledge and get excited about TEC careers. It’s a critical effort since there aren’t currently enough women entering these roles and TEC companies seek increased diversity in talent. The program is working to level the playing field for today’s students and expose them to many varied options. It’s an effort that is sure to help boost eighth grade math proficiency rates, which the Arizona Education Progress Meter aims to improve to 69 percent by 2030.
In communities where youth are often unaware of potential careers, or how to pursue them, TEC is for Girls! is helping to inspire thousands. It has reached more than 600 students during the conferences and nearly 200 in weekly school outreach. Pre and post surveys show a dramatic increase in the number of young women who envision themselves going to college, to 78 percent from 24. An impressive 81 percent plan to pursue a degree in science and there was a significant increase in students’ confidence in the subject of science and technology, to 70 percent from 14. And the student depictions of engineers at work? While most drew men working on cars before the program, participants shifted to women in computing or robotics after participating.