With science and technology booming in West Michigan, including the development of two COVID-19 vaccines in Portage and Grand Rapids, students and kids have a chance to get a leg-up on in-demand science and tech careers from their virtual classrooms.
In a two-hour online event, Junior Achievement — an education-based non-profit — will introduce students to female mentors who work in STEM-related fields and show them the exciting possibilities for their future.
"Junior Achievement's strength is bringing together volunteers from our business community in all sectors. Our focus is financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness," Bill Coderre, President and CEO of Junior Achievement Great Lakes, said.
"That work readiness component is all also focused on teaching kids the soft skills of how to be successful in the workplace, but also exposing them to career opportunities but they might not get exposed to," Coderre said.
After a TED-style talk from inspirational STEM women, mentors will use the JA "It's My Future" curriculum to encourage students to ask questions about their own futures and urge them to consider a career in STEM.
"It's really a great opportunity to bring kids together with caring volunteers from the business community that want to give these kids a leg up," Coderre said.
Junior Achievement's "JA Passport to STEM: A Virtual Experience" will be on May 6, 2021 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. online.
The event plans to reach hundreds of 7th and 8th-grade boys and girls in the greater Southwest Michigan area, including Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and as far out as the Lansing area. They will learn from women at the top of their fields in STEM — meaning science, technology, engineering and math fields.
"In every community where this is going to be held virtually, there is a team of committee members and task force members that are working both independently and collectively to bring this event to fruition," Coderre said.
"We have over 1,000 students already signed up for the virtual experience," Coderre said, as of the end of March 2021.
Traditionally, JA's annual women-in-STEM-focused fair focused on introducing middle school girls to STEM careers.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced JA to cancel its 2020 event, but in 2021, the Dream Fair returned, re-imagined, as a fully-virtual event where boys were also included, due to many schools' switching to virtual learning during the pandemic.
"Junior Achievement is impacting all kids: black, brown, white, Native American, Asian. Junior Achievement is about providing all students with equal access to a brighter future," Coderre said.
Keynote speakers for the "JA Passport to STEM: A Virtual Experience" will include:
If you would like more information about either participating or sponsoring the JA Passport to STEM: A Virtual Experience event, you can call (269) 968-9188 ext. 7723 or click here to get more information. This link provides the sponsorship packet as well as the event flyer with more information and a link on which schools can sign up.
According to its website, Junior Achievement USA is a "nonprofit that inspires and prepares young people for success," and provides online resources for teachers and parents.