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Students Find Inspiration in Stories From “Hidden Figures,” Math and Science Professionals

More than 300 St. Louis Public School sophomores spoke with leaders from The Boeing Co., Pfizer, Inc. and Monsanto Co. about college and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math fields after watching a special screening of the critically acclaimed, box office hit “Hidden Figures.”

“We all need role models who show us that we can succeed in any field that sparks our passion and imagination,” said SLPS Superintendent Kelvin R. Adams, Ph.D. “It’s especially important to see women and people of color in math and science fields because too many young people don’t see the opportunities and excitement that are possible in those careers.”

Students at the Feb. 23 event attend Soldan International Studies High School, Clyde C. Miller Career Academy and Central Visual and Performing Arts High School – three of six SLPS schools that partner with the National Math and Science Initiative to bring the nonprofit's proven College Readiness Program to students and teachers.

The program dramatically increases access to rigorous coursework for all students. It also increases the number of students taking and earning qualifying scores on Advanced Placement® math, science and English exams, which prepares them for college and career success.

The three-year CRP has benefitted students and teachers in more than 1,000 schools nationwide. It started in SLPS this fall.

“We are helping close gaps in access and achievement in high-quality math, science and English courses so more students leave high school ready to succeed in their chosen path,” said Crystal Ward, NMSI’s program manager for SLPS.

NMSI launched its CRP program in SLPS after the nonprofit secured a nearly $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Invest in Innovation (i3) competition. These funds have allowed NMSI to expand its College Readiness Program to nine additional urban and rural school districts across eight states.

“Hidden Figures” reveals the untold history of the female African-American mathematicians and engineers who were integral to launching successful NASA missions in the 1960s, including astronaut John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth. The film sparked lively discussion between students and industry leaders.

“As mentors, we play a big part in helping students—particularly girls—see themselves in STEM careers,” said Tonya Noble, director, U.S. and International AV-8B, T-45, F/A-18 Mods & Upgrades for The Boeing Company. “Even after I earned my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, I didn't know if I had what it took to succeed in my job, but I took a chance. To those students interested in computer science or engineering, I say go after your goals. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give up.”
 
The event coincided with National Engineers Week, which celebrates the work of our nation’s engineers and encourages youth to explore STEM careers.