Tucson school empowers girls to chase their STEM dreams
KOLD13. Hannah Tiede. October 16, 2019.

Tuscon, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Some of the fastest growing careers in the country involve jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, better known as STEM for short. These sectors are expected to grow about 8 percent by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and one local school is hoping a good portion of that workforce will be women.

Booth-Fickett Math/Science Magnet School launched a new all-girls club called STEM Girls Rock! this Wednesday, Oct. 16. The club is geared toward empowering young girls to enter STEM-related career fields.

Dr. Demetra Baxter-Oliver, principal of Booth-Fickett and founder of STEM Girls Rock!, was inspired by one girl who didn’t do so well on the AzMERIT test.

“She said ‘well it’s okay, girls aren’t supposed to be good at math,'" Baxter-Oliver said. "I was like ‘oh no!’”

The girls, who range from sixth through eighth grade, will meet once a month to learn more about careers in the STEM field and tour different STEM-related companies in Tucson, Baxer-Oliver said.

During its first meeting, four women with experience in STEM fields spoke to a classroom full of eager girls.

One of the panelists was a former NASA senior executive Dr. Amanda Goodson. She was one of a handful of experts involved in NASA’s the first eight and a half minutes of the space shuttle launch, she said.

“I was the youngest that was selected for that particular job, the only woman at that time selected for that job, the only woman of color,” Goodson said.

Even though more women are entering STEM fields since Goodson’s time, there is still a large gender gap. A 2017 report by the U.S. Council of Graduate Schools found that only about 25 percent of students who graduated from an engineering program are women.

However, at Booth-Ficket Middle school, change is on the horizon.

“I want to work on cardiovascular machines during open-heart surgery when I’m older,” said Ashley Jacobo, an eighth grader at Booth-Fickett. “I know there is a huge demand for that, especially for women.”

For sixth-grader Grace Chibasa, seeing other women in the field is a big inspiration.

“Hearing [the panelists] stories, college actually does great things for you, it really helped me figure out my plans,” she said.

The club kicks off with a lesson on a basic building block for success — learning how to value and not limit yourself.

“You’re unstoppable,” Goodson said to the class, “That’s why you’re here.”

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