Collegiate Pathways Inc. Paves Way for STEM-Savvy, College-Bound Girls
Generosi-“tea” – that was the recurring theme of the closing remarks from Laine Powell, founder and executive director of Collegiate Pathways Inc. at a recent fundraiser in Orlando.
CPI is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering first-generation and under-represented, middle and high school girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through college preparation, career readiness and mentoring.
During the annual Tea & “bytes” fundraiser for Tech Sassy Girlz™, CPI’s signature STEM program, Powell expressed her gratitude to those sponsoring, “generous” organizations and community leaders for believing in her dream, conceived nearly 17 years ago, to see more diversity and women employed in technical careers.
The event, held at the Orlando Science Center, raised more than $14,000.
“I am truly humbled by the amount of support from the community. Today is an important day for Tech Sassy Girlz because our community recognized the importance of helping us develop the next generation of STEM female leaders.”
For years, studies have indicated the United States is losing its competitive edge in math and science, as other countries advance. This “STEM crisis” impacts American education and the ability to stay competitive, close minority and gender gaps, as well as improve teacher preparation.
Kathryn Shuler, assistant superintendent of Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) explained that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer and math occupations are expected to add more than 785,000 new jobs from 2008 to 2018. Collectively, they will grow more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations in the economy. Network systems and data communications analysts are projected to increase by 155,800 jobs.
“There is no doubt that skills in the STEM subjects are needed and will provide the best career choices for our students. At Orange County Public Schools, our vision is to be the top producer of successful students in the nation…and we are committed to STEM education,” said Shuler.
It is a natural fit that OCPS would support organizations like CPI. Other corporate and academic sponsors include AceApplications, Brighthouse Networks, Oracle Academy, University of Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort, City of Orlando, Wells Fargo, Century Link and Best Buy, all supporting CPI because it aligns with their vision to support STEM and advocate for more women in technology careers.
“AceApplications is proud to be a sponsor because of the impact CPI is making in the community by introducing girls to STEM, specifically in computer science and technology,” said Courtney Powell, the company’s president and CEO.
Tech Sassy Girlz provides girls in grades 6-12 exposure and access to STEM fields through interactive and informative STEM tours, conferences, workshops, summer camp programs and internships. Since its inception in 2012, more than 500 girls have participated in the CPI programs, with expansion slated for Miami next and the long-term goal of increased participation across the U.S.
Two shining examples of success are Naia Butler-Craig and Kharis Hughes.
A first-year student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Butler-Craig is studying aerospace engineering with a concentration in propulsion. Fulfilling her dream to attend Embry-Riddle since childhood, she is excelling with a 3.8 GPA and is very involved on campus. She serves as the Academic Excellence Chair of the National Society of Black Engineers, a member of the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Lab organization, Honors Program and Honors Student Association, as well as founder and president of the Embry Riddle Dancing Eagles.
Hughes is an International Baccalaureate (IB) program scholar at Orlando’s historic Jones High School where she is currently ranked No. 4 in her senior class, with a weighted GPA of 4.67. She is involved in a number of extracurricular activities, such as cheerleading, volunteering at Cub Academy – an orientation program for incoming high school freshmen and member of the Steps to Success program.
She has received numerous awards and recognition such as the Sunshine State Scholar Award, National Honor Society and recent inductee and charter member of Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society. After being accepted by multiple universities, she decided to enroll in UCF this summer, majoring in biomedical science with the ultimate career goal of becoming a pediatric anesthesiologist.
Hughes was surprised at the event when she was awarded the CenturyLink Scholarship for $1,500 by Field Marketing Manager, Deborah Rios-Barnes.
The growth of women in STEM must be exponential. CPI and Tech Sassy Girlz is a success story that needs to be told more often.