Just like signing days for athletes, the inaugural Washington STEM Signing Day celebrated high school seniors from across the state as they made their commitments to some of the state and country’s top technical schools, colleges, and universities.
During a ceremony attended by family members, elected officials, school and community leaders, 49 students signed “letters of intent” confirming their plans to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields ranging from bioengineering, to animal science, to aeronautical engineering.
High school senior Hannah Stoddard traveled from Washougal, Wash. for the celebration. She plans to study either chemistry or biochemistry in college, and found the event inspiring. “As an African American and a woman I feel like the representation we have in the STEM field isn’t as much as it should be,” said Stoddard. “This shows that we can be successful in whatever area we choose to be in.”
Clay Lince made the drive to Seattle’s Museum of Flight from Tumwater, Wash, and says it was well worth the hours in the car. “It’s an event that recognizes STEM students,” he said with a smile. “It’s always the nerds that haven’t been recognized. It’s always been the jocks having these big signing days and contracts. It’s nice to see the STEM students get recognized. This will be a day I definitely remember. We get a whole special event dedicated to us!”
The students received both praise and encouragement from several dynamic speakers, including Ted Colbert, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Information and Analytics for the Boeing Company.
“STEM Signing Day is extremely important to the Boeing Company,” said Colbert. “As we work towards our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire the world through aerospace innovation we must have talent to do that, and we want to recognize our students who are focusing their efforts and their talents on STEM.”
Another Boeing speaker, Christine Walsh, told the students about her own path as a test pilot at Boeing, urging them to chase their dreams. “The products and science you’re going to be creating is going to change our world,” she told the rapt audience. “Go find a mentor. Have them help you and guide you along your path. And then celebrate that success when you find it!”
Chris Reykdal, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction had high praise for the work and discipline that lead the students to their academic success, but also had one request. “We want to elevate you and let you fly in any way that you want,” said Reykdal. “And we hope you will then bring some of that back here. Come home and find a way to give part of you back to your community in the entire circle of making STEM relevant to humanity.”
It’s advice America Sevilla from Pasco, Wash. plans to follow. She is the first member of her family to attend college, with plans to become a pharmacist.
“I want to help others with new medications we need to find in this world,” Sevilla said, before explaining how being recognized at STEM Signing Day was validation for all of the work she has put into her studies. “It’s an important step because they can see how much I value school and how much I value my education and how important college is for me.”
By Deborah Feldman and Josh Green