Potential doctors of the future dissect pig hearts under the tutelage of volunteer high school girls directed by professionals in the field. Hugh McMillan, KP News

STEM–science, technology, engineering and math–is the theme of the day in education. To encourage young girls to embrace it, last year some 200 girls from the four area middle schools assembled at Harbor Ridge Middle School for the Career and Pathways Expo (CAPE), designed to inspire interest in STEM classes and careers. It was a huge success, according to Peninsula School District.

CAPE returned April 2, 2016, to the same site and welcomed 230 district middle school girls.

Joy Giovanini, the district’s K-12 Highly Capable Program Coordinator and CAPE’s spearhead, led an army of district and community volunteers, ensuring the girls experienced a professional conference. Each received a special T-shirt, swag bag and time to network. During the event, students chose stations where they could dissect a sheep heart, analyze blood splatter and learn computer coding.

Kathy Weymiller, the district’s Director of Community Outreach, said, “They did hands-on activities like performing veterinary surgery on a Beanie Baby, building structures with engineers and examining real pregnant patients with ultrasound and doppler.”

Key Peninsula Middle School seventh-grader Emma Swainston said, “I have been very interested in engineering and design ever since I was little. I believe this CAPE experience and many others will help me later in my career and job.”

Classmate Haley Barresson noted, “My favorite part of the day and what I got out of the day was understanding why we needed classes like math and science to get a good job and one that you truly love.”

Aryana Elisabeth Olafssen’s “favorite part of the day was hearing and seeing babies. I really love to help people and young people. CAPE is a good experience for young girls looking for a career.”

Peninsula High School sophomore Cassie McMurtrey was there, she said, “volunteering to help girls who love science and make it easier for them to have opportunities here today by making this amazing event run smoothly. I’m here because I love this school, I love science and I love these girls.”

KPMS sixth-grader Frankie Kelley said, “My favorite part was coding. I want to be a coder or an aerospace engineer when I go to college.” For McKayla Nichols, “This was my first year of CAPE and I thought it was really fun! Now I want to be in STEM. This was a great experience. There was so much to learn and I didn’t get it all.”

Giovanini said, “CAPE would be an impossibility without the incredible support of so many groups and individuals, like Peninsula Schools Education Foundation, John Selfors, Soroptomists, all four middle school PTAs, Uptown, Allovus, teachers from all secondary schools, and the nearly 50 community members serving as mentors to the girls in workshops.”

KPMS eighth-grader Tiffany Rose said she “got an amazing experience and a larger hobby for medical subjects. I highly recommend CAPE.” Marian Sheek, “learned so much from CAPE, it made me think again about what I want to do. I’d love to come back and do it again. Having CAPE to go to I think helps girls open to more jobs out there.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the overwhelming response of girls from Key Peninsula who signed up for CAPE,” said Giovanini. “Considering that the school sent 60 girls who connected with STEM teachers and explored careers, we impacted over 30 percent of the girl population at KPMS!”

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