Program working to give kids more STEM skills now expanding

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A program that's already seen success in East Baton Rouge Parish is expanding. The goal is to give high school students a head start in landing quality careers.

The faces of future leaders are getting a golden chance to learn about science and engineering in the workplace while still in high school.

"The National Science Foundation says that this year, we're going to have a million unfilled jobs, a million unfilled jobs in STEM related careers," said Congressman Garret Graves.

Graves had a strong message at the launch for GEN READY, an initiative focusing on increasing knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program, originally called the BR STEM Network, will now expand to ten other parishes. It will also create more partnerships with businesses and industry leaders.

"A dream is hollow, it's only an idea if we don't actually have the capacity, the content, the skills to fulfill it," said Graves.

For many young students, those dreams and hopes are becoming a reality.

"I would like to do engineering because when I first did this, it was really fun and I love programming and building robots, and I feel like you can actually help change the world with engineering and building," said Brandon Dominick.

"Well, I want to be a chemical engineer and a chemical scientist, so I plan on being a double major in college," said Kelvin Powell.

Students who participated in Scotlandville Middle Magnet's pre-engineering program attended the launch for GEN READY. They came showcasing some of the projects they have worked on, projects that have impacted all of them in unique ways.

"I like to be the face of a new movement because I know a lot of girls feel like this is only a boys type of subject, because every time we would go like to practice or we would go to a competition, they would be like, 'Is she supposed to be on your team?' Like yes, I'm the only girl on this team. I'm supposed to be here," said Lauren Dukes, one of the students participating in the program.

With the initiative now expanded, more are sure to jump in, realizing this will give them a leg up once they're ready to enter the job market.

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