DHS moves full STEAM ahead - a panel of five visit school for career day

Leslie D. Rose @DvilleNewsie
Panelist Czarina Walker of InfiniEDGE, explains to DHS students the significanace on each letter in STEAM.

DONALDSONVILLE – Louisiana is home to an abundance of chemical plants and factories. Ascension Parish houses more than 25 of these businesses alone, and now with the economic boom powered by companies like CF Industries, career coaches at Donaldsonville High School said they want to ensure their students are ready to partake in STEM fields.

     STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and sometimes STEAM, where the letter “A” represents Art, is an active set of fields worldwide. Courtesy of five area STEM professionals, DHS students got first person accounts on how the world is changing in the aforementioned markets.

     Career coach Dorothy Claiborne facilitated the event, noting that STEM has become an important aspect in the lives of DHS students.

     “We need to educate our children in science, technology, engineering and math because this is what the jobs are offering,” Claiborne said. 

     On a regular basis, the career counseling department works with students to complete college, loan, financial aid and job applications. Recently a focus has been placed on STEM because of the over-abundance of jobs in the field and the influx of non-resident employees filling those positions.

     “People are coming from out of state to get the jobs in our state,” Claiborne said. “We want our own children to be able to get into the plants and be able to function.

     Members of the featured panel were MOTIVA employees Quinn A. Harris and Alsie Dunbar (also founder of STEM GEMS), Natasha Thomas Gipson – Donaldsonvile native and computer information systems specialist, Czarina Walker – owner/operator of InfiniEDGE Software, and special guest speaker Roy Quezaire – Legislative Liaison for LaDOTD.

     The program began with panelists polling students on STEM – only a few hands went up. When the students were polled on their desire to work in STEM careers, more hands were raised.

     Each panelist took time to explain what their day-to-day job functions include, as well as how they found interest in STEM and what ways they obtained credentials in the field.

     Each story significantly different than the next, however each panelist noted that from childhood, they knew they each had fascination in building or taking things apart.

     Panelist Walker, who started her business at age 18, throughly explained how each letter of STEAM works together to build a product, noting that no one field in the grouping outweighs another.

     “Think about the things you guys use everyday on your phones – would you use a game or an ap that didn’t look nice? Art’s important,” Walker said. “Technology-wise, if it works or if it doesn’t work – is that important? Engineering-wise, like if it’ll run right or has a bunch of memory leaks – is that important? Math-wise, if my score isn’t adding up right – that’s not going to fly. All of those things are really important – they’re all vital.”

     While students were taught about how financially-sound STEM careers are, panelist Thomas Gipson spoke of the importance of enjoying one’s work, explaining that STEM isn’t for everyone.

     “The first thing is to try to get into something that you enjoy doing,” she said. “If you do it for the money, you won’t do it long and you won’t enjoy it. So if you find something that you love – you like fixing things, working with your hands – then I urge you to try it – it’s really a hands-on field.” 

     Overall, Claiborne said, the goal is to keep students in Louisiana after graduation, while introducing them to the field that surrounds them.

     “We are getting our students ready for what’s about to happen in the next two-three years – the plants are going to be rolling and they’re going to be looking for workers,” Claiborne said. “We are starting with our own students, our own children, so they can get the jobs right here and won’t have to leave Louisiana.”