Full STEAM ahead

Students work together on a science experiment during the annual Women in STEAM Conference on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Atkins High School.

Full STEAM ahead
November 23
09:30 2016

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Annual conference encourages girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math



“Go for it and never let anyone tell you no or that you can’t do something.”

That was the message Wake Forest Baptist Health pediatric specialist Dr. Karyn Gordon delivered during the 4th Annual Women in STEAM Conference at Atkins High School last Saturday.

The annual event is designed to inspire young women to follow their dreams and pursue careers in the five parts of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math).

As she sat on the stage in front of the auditorium filled with middle and high school-aged girls during an open panel discussion with other professionals in STEAM-related careers, Gordon said the biggest challenge that she is still fighting to overcome today is dealing with people who have negative perceptions about women in the workplace.

Although she has been in the field of medicine for a decade, Gordon said there are still times where patients look at her and think she isn’t qualified.

For example, Gordon described one incident where a child was suffering from meningitis and needed blood to be drawn. With little time left before the situation became life threatening, Gordon said the mother of the child refused to let her draw the child’s blood.

Luckily, Gordon ignored the mother’s threats to take her to court and saved the child’s life.

“It doesn’t happen as often as it use to, but people look at me and don’t think I have the ability to do it,” she continued. “Sometimes you want to turn around and start crying because it hurts, but you have to stand up and take it.

“Sometimes it can make your armor that much stronger and make you more determined to prove them wrong,”she said.

After the panel discussion, students had the opportunity to sharpen their STEAM skills by doing several hands-on experiments. While completing a science experiment, Atkins High School sophomore Kayla Horton said after listening to Gordon she is now even more excited about follow-ing her dream to become a chemotherapist.

“It inspired me to keep pushing,” said Horton. “I know there will be people who will have their doubts, but after listening to Dr. Gordon, I have more confidence in myself and my abilities.”

Atkins freshman Wyland Shrewsbury, who wants to become an OG/GYN specialist, said it felt good to be around people who have similar interests as her.

After the hands-on experiments, students sat down with representatives from local colleges and universities to discuss internships . Representatives from North Carolina Central University, Forsyth Tech, Winston-Salem State University and a number of local businesses were all on hand during the conference.

While the students were excited about all the events included in this year’s conference, arguably the most excited person in the building was event coordinator Monika Vasili. Vasili, who is a science teacher at Atkins, said when she started the conference in 2012, her goal was to show girls that they are just as smart and talented as boys.

“Growing up in a communist country, I understand all too well what it’s like having someone say you can’t do something,” she continued. “So when I came to Atkins and seen how many girls wanted to go into the science and medical fields, I wanted them to know they have my support.”

Although the conference has ended, the work to inspire young girls to follow their dreams is an ongoing process. To ensure they are on the right path to reach their goals, every student who attended this year’s conference will be paired with a “big sister” who will help them get involved locally with STEAM.

When discussing the future of the conference, Vasili said she hopes to see the event continue to grow. She said next year her goal is to fill the entire auditorium with girls from the area who want to purse jobs and careers in STEAM.

“The growth over the last four years has just been amazing. I can’t wait to see how many girls show up next year,” she said. “This conference is all about building confidence and connections. Once you have those things, the sky is the limit.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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