Mt. Olive’s Young Women in STEAM

By Henry M. Holden

Science Educator Emily Granger (R) with STEAM student Katie Hallac. Hallac is in the seventh grade and she is interested in science, especially physics and astronomy. “One day I hope to study planetary science,” she said.

This year, Mount Olive held its second annual “Women in STEAM” event under the direction of Dr. Gretel Perez, Ed.D. STEAM translates to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It introduces young women to a broad array of career paths.

STEAM is designed to integrate STEM subjects into various relevant educational disciplines. These programs aim to teach students innovation, to think critically and use engineering or technology in ingenious designs or creative approaches to real-world problems while building on students’ mathematics and science base. STEAM programs add art to STEM curriculum by drawing on design principles and encouraging creative solutions.

On Thursday evening, April 11th, the Mount Olive Township District celebrated “Mount Olive’s Young Ladies in STEAM” in grades 6-12.

Unlike last year, this year’s Women in STEAM event was a 2-day event celebrating all women at different developmental stages of STEAM. Twenty-four young women participated.

“These young ladies were chosen by their Science and STEAM instructors because of their hard work, talent and leadership in Mount Olive School District’s STEAM Program,” said Perez.

“This is my 3rd year in Mount Olive; I started as the Supervisor of STEAM, 6-12 and was promoted to Director of Science & STEAM, K-12 last January.”

Perez also oversees the summer STEAM Camp program, which has nearly doubled in the last two years because of new activities in STEAM provided to increase interest in STEAM. “The numbers in STEAM Camp nearly doubled in the last two years due to its exciting course offerings and Mount Olive’s partnership with the Edu-link Consulting Corporation’s Capstone Program, which brings in international students from Asia to attend our summer programs,” said Perez.

Hannah Lake shared that when she was informed that she was an honoree, she began to think about scientists and many of the names she recalled were of men. She explained that only being able to name Marie Curie made her realize the importance of having more women enter the STEAM professions and make a name for themselves. She believes this event will help motivate more girls to study science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.

The venue for Thursday night’s festivities was surrounded by posters of each young lady that included a biography of the student, the teacher’s recommendation, as well as 3-6 adjectives each young lady chose to describe herself.

The honorees were each awarded Mount Olive’s Young Lady in STEAM. Some of them took to the stage to thank their family, teachers, principals and Dr. Perez.

“Our honorees represented a group of young ladies from diverse backgrounds and performance abilities, as well as diverse courses such as: Robotics, Biotechnology, Industrial Design, Innovation & Design, Biology, Physics, Visual Art, Math, etc.” said Perez. “The reason students were honored this year is because it is important to start celebrating our students’ work and talents early. We need to start motivating our young ladies to remain in and pursue STEAM courses so that they are empowered to enter courses (and eventually fields) that are currently dominated by males.”

“This year was the first-year males were invited to be a part of the audience. Those who attended the presentation were thanked because they are key to helping change how females are viewed in certain classes. They either have sisters, female cousins and/or female friends that need to have encouragement and support from their male peers.”

The event ended on Friday morning, April 12th, by introducing the honorees from Thursday night, as well as students from the middle school and high school to a panel of successful women in the STEAM fields. 

 The panel of speakers represented a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Megan Horn, at Kessler Institute, a mechanical engineer, Doctor Melissa Moretti, a research chemist in propulsion at the Picatinny Arsenal, a STEM coordinator, a teacher, and an entrepreneur who was a former Mount Olive Graphic Design Instructor. These women shared their experiences and challenges in school and in their current profession. Their message to students was not to be afraid to push through any challenges that are ahead of them and to be confident in themselves.

Dr. Perez comes well-qualified to the position with a BS in Biology and French, an MA in Liberal Studies, with a thesis in bio-engineering, another MA in Educational Leadership, and an Ed. D in Educational Leadership.

Photos courtesy Dr. Gretel Perez


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