Sparking Interest in STEAM at Massachusetts STEM Week 2019

Newton employees inspire local students to see themselves in STEM as a part of the statewide initiative.

Machine Learning Engineer Sasha Spala shares about her career journey with high school students. Photo by Tim Pierce.

by Leslie Lewis

posted on 10-31-2019

Massachusetts has long been a bastion for innovation in American education. From establishing the nation’s first institution of higher learning to opening America’s first public library and first public school, the Bay State has a storied history of innovating in the education space.

Given its rich academic legacy, it’s no surprise Massachusetts is also home to one of the U.S. cities with the highest population of STEM jobs. STEM industries are vital to the state’s economy, accounting for more than 600,000 jobs – and will account for nearly 25 percent of its total employment growth over the next ten years. With this in mind, leaders in the Commonwealth are striving to grow the pipeline of young people into tech careers.

Kim-Anh Nguyen, ACS Strategy & Operations, shares her career journey with students from Braintree High School METCO Program.

Sparking interest in STEM

Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito introduced Massachusetts STEM Week in October 2018 to underscore the importance of STEM in education and how those fields contribute to the state’s economy. The inaugural event reached more than 10,000 students across 500 events. Now in its second year, united under the theme, “See Yourself in STEM,” Massachusetts STEM Week has doubled down on its efforts to reach women, underrepresented minorities and first-generation students. As site lead of our Newton office, I was thrilled to see our employees get involved.

As a company with a rich history in the arts, creativity is part of our DNA. That’s why we call it STEAM, adding an “A” for arts. In an innovation-driven economy full of automation, creativity is an inherently human characteristic that cannot be replaced and is more important than ever. The more students practice creative problem-solving, the better equipped they’ll be. Massachusetts STEM Week gave us the opportunity to share with students how focusing on STEAM-related skills is valuable in the tech industry. My colleagues participated in three different events.

Students laugh over lunch with Nidhi Tare, Computer Scientist II.

On Friday, October 18, employees engaged students between grades 7-12 at the Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion School’s Dream Day, where they shared their experiences and how they landed careers in STEM. The Henderson Inclusion School serves children from diverse ethnic, linguistic and ability backgrounds from early childhood through grade 12. Teachers and support staff collaborate to help all children learn and succeed at high levels.

“At the beginning of the event, many students saw working in tech as something limited to only software engineers,” Marie-Sophie Iredale, executive assistant said. “By the end, they were inspired to hear there are all kinds of opportunities within tech.”

Then on Monday October 21, volunteers hosted an Adobe Spark workshop at the John M. Barry Boys and Girls Club in Newton, where middle and high school students had the opportunity to walk through the platform and learn how to use it to tell their stories in visually compelling ways. It was amazing to see the creativity from the students’ Spark pages and videos after just five minutes of training.

Newton employees volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club to demonstrate a Spark workshop to middle and high school students.

“These kids are digital natives and it comes so naturally to them,” Julie Babayan, senior manager, government relations said. “Watching them pick up a new medium of storytelling was incredibly rewarding.”

To round out the week, the Adobe Newton office hosted 20 students from the Braintree High School METCO Program to shadow Adobe employees. METCO is a voluntary program intended to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity and reduce racial barriers by permitting students in underserved neighborhoods to attend public schools in other communities that have agreed to participate.

Justin Wilson, Braintree High School METCO Director witnessed the day’s impact. “On the bus back to school, several of the students talked about getting a job at a technology company,” Justin said. “The girls especially loved meeting and hearing Leslie’s story, because they saw someone that looked like them in a leadership role at Adobe.”

Having experienced it firsthand, I cannot underscore the profound impact initiatives like Massachusetts STEM Week can have for our students and our workforce. Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito have set a strong example for how states can build pipelines to increase the number of students, graduates and aspiring professionals in the careers of the future. I’m grateful to have taken part and am excited to continue working to help students see themselves in STEM.

To learn more about the efforts we’ve made to work toward equal representation in the field, click here.

Topics: Diversity & Inclusion, Public Policy