At the end of the school year, Freshmen Students in the Academies of Nashville select the academy they will be a part of for their sophomore, junior, and senior years. Demauri M., a student at Glencliff High School, writes about her experiences and decision making process during her freshmen year that led her to be a part of the the Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning.
Being in STEM is a really amazing experience. The tools, the wood, and constantly doing hands-on activities. It is just great. But there is this idea that STEM and The Shop belong to the men. In people’s mind, power tools represent masculinity. Yes, most likely every man has a tool chest, but this is the twenty-first century. Women can and ARE doing what the men are doing.
There is one thing though, female teens need to be exposed to what it is like to be in a shop, to build and cut things, or they will never realize how much they could enjoy it. That’s what happened to me.
As a freshmen, there was a period in the second semester where the freshman would tour all of the academies the school had to offer. I had already had my mind set on being in cosmetology/Hospitality and Marketing. But then the day came where we would tour the working environment for a student in STEM.
As I entered the class room, I noticed a lot of computers. The first though that came to mind was that this was a class where everything was done on the computers. You could say I was…half way correct. As my eyes wondered the class room, I noticed a door that opened up into another room… THE SHOP! From then on, my mind was changed. I knew for a fact that I would enter the Environmental and Urban Planning Academy.
Now I am a sophomore who has experienced and is still experiencing what it is like to be a beginner in STEM. Of course, I had to learn the basics, which meant staying in the actual classroom, but once that was over and I passed my safety test, I was on my way to the shop, ready to start on my first project that I was going to build. From designing, to cutting 2x4s, and to screwing in bolts, I was doing it all.
Sharing my experiences
Here recently, five women who were professional interior designers, architects, and civil engineers , came and spoke to a group of freshman females (chosen by the school based on their grades) about what it is like to enter a technical field as a woman. Last year, I was one of the freshmen, listening in on what my future could be like if I entered those fields. I simply loved it. So I was HONORED when my teacher asked another student and myself to speak to the young ladies about what they will experience when they enter STEM.
Towards the end of the meeting, I asked the girls to raise their hands if they knew that they were sure that they would enter STEM. Not to my surprise, almost everyone raised their hand. It was great. To those who didn’t raise their hand, I simply said, “In just about every class, there will be that one part of the year where you do nothing hands on in class. But not in STEM, because, we don’t have books. So the hands on activities come a lot sooner than the other classes.”
If those girls took one thing out from that meeting, it would be not to let the idea of what is “manly” or not to hold you back on what you want to do. Gender doesn’t determine whether you can or cannot do something. Your determination, confidence, and will-power does.