As the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced the allocation of some STEM-related funds, Miss America joined business leaders and policy makers in championing the importance of STEM education in a press conference on Friday at the Salt Lake Chamber.
The Utah Legislature appropriated $10 million for a STEM Action Center during the 2013 session. Sophia DeCaro, deputy director of GOED, announced $1.5 million will go to establish a director, staff and board. $5 million will be dedicated to math skill building in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, while $3.5 million will go to juniors and seniors in high school for college math readiness.
“If we don’t give our children an education that provides them an edge, their future jobs will be taken from them by students in China, India or the rest of the world,” said Stan Lockhart of IM Flash and private sector chair for Utah’s STEM Education Initiative. “What can we do to give them an edge? What can we do to teach them the skills that allow them to compete in this digital world we live in? What it comes down to is this: science, technology, engineering and math.”
Mallory Hagan, the reigning Miss America, says she expressed great interest in math and science in middle school thanks to passionate teachers who cared about her success. “But [in high school] we had teachers who were making sure we made good grades on tests but not making sure we could comprehend any of the information. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re a freshman in bio-medical science.”
Hagan has since changed her educational path to marketing with a focus in cosmetics and fragrance, but wishes she had learned back in her formative years the “cool” jobs that she could have from pursuing more math and science, like making lipstick and mascara and not just wearing it.
Today, she encourages mentorship as part of an education to show students what kinds of opportunities are available to them, since dissecting frogs and learning about atoms doesn’t give them the whole scope what of what they are able do.
“There are so many kids across the nation who don’t have a favorite subject, who don’t enjoy school, and they are in the first, second and third grade. That’s really disheartening because we want kids to want to learn. We need to catch them early on otherwise there’s no hope for the rest of their education process.”
And a quality education can help make the difference, whether that’s in only in making good grades to get to college or making an actual difference in the world as many STEM-related jobs are able to do.