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STEM students use summer to get ahead in workforce

  • Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taylor Griffith/South Strand News Waccamaw High School’s Meaisha Myers receives a certificate of completion from Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier at the 2014 Summer STEM Academy closing ceremony. She is one of 22 students who participated.

For 22 Georgetown County high school students, the odds of being hired in the science, technology, engineering and math fields just went up.

The group, representing sophomores through senior at Andrews, Carvers Bay, Georgetown and Waccamaw high schools, spent the week of June 16 to 19 studying in the Georgetown County School District’s first Summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy.

The week consisted of completing academic challenges, visiting colleges, touring STEM industries and working on career skills. On the last day of class, STEM Academy students were tested to evaluate their readiness for the workforce.

The overall goal of the program was to educate students on their college and career opportunities in the Georgetown County area.

“These opportunities are here in Georgetown County, in places like International Paper and the Georgetown Airport,”ileen Patonay, Waccamaw Regional Education Center coordinator, told the students. “They want to hire you.”

Jeanette Johnson, an instructor and middle and high school math coach, agreed: “We wanted to expose these kids to what’s already in our community. There’s high paying STEM fields right here in Georgetown…. You don’t have to go to Greenville, you don’t have to go to Columbia.”

Brice Sanders, of Georgetown High School, said he learned he wants to be a computer science major from the academy.

“Without this program he probably wouldn’t have figured that out yet. It’s wonderful,” said his mother, Joy Sanders.

Andrews High School student Praise Hudson agreed the academy was insightful.

“STEM really is everywhere,” she said. “I want to make a difference in the technology world, like building artificial limbs.”

Hudson and Sanders both said their favorite part of the academy was touring the Citadel.

Academy students spent time at the four-year university, as well as a two-year university, during the week.

“The week for me was really about new experiences more than anything,” said Waccamaw High School’s Tyler Zeh. “There’s a lot of opportunities in STEM, especially with different college majors.”

Pamela Vereen, an instructor and high school science coach, said that’s what the week was supposed to be about.

“When they have these kinds of experiences it gives them some kind of direction that will help later down the line, whether that’s with college or with a career,” she said.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier said the Summer STEM Academy students were commendable for choosing to invest in themselves this summer.

“Some of your friends might have been swimming or playing on the beach … but by showing up and doing this, it will certainly pay off for you in the long run.”

Vereen and Johnson said for its first year, the program was very successful and both expressed interest in teaching the academy again next summer.

“There was a lot of pieces this week, but it was an opportunity to cultivate these students,” Vereen said.

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