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Indiana STEM Mentoring Program Helps Girls Find Careers

A five-day mentoring program organized by a partnership between Purdue Polytechnic and the Sistas of Royalty offers classes and workshops for girls, this year focusing on food supply chain management.

Illustration of STEM, technology education
(TNS) — College is still a few years away for Lyric Clark, but the sixth grader at Anderson Intermediate School in Indiana is already interested in a career path.

"I don't know where I want to go to college yet, but I know I want to go," Clark said while she waited for a classroom session to begin Saturday morning at Purdue Polytechnic Institute. "I want to do something with criminal justice."

Clark and her sister, Alicia Smith, signed up for a five-day STEM enrichment program offered to 25 local girls as a result of a partnership between Purdue Polytechnic and the Sistas of Royalty, a mentoring program intended to help girls remain focused socially and educationally as they progress toward adulthood.

Program founder Veronica Watkins said co-hosting the classes and workshops provides an opportunity to introduce the girls to potential academic paths — and possible careers — in fields including science, technology, engineering and math.

"Any girl can be part of the program, but our focus is girls of color," Watkins said. "Ordinarily they don't get the opportunities that some of their other friends get in terms of being introduced to STEM. We don't have the resources that they would have, so this is so important because a lot of times they are gifted and talented in areas that they don't even know."

The focus of the five-day program, which concludes Wednesday, is food supply chain management. Officials at Purdue Polytechnic recognize a chance not only to connect with potential future students, but to provide ideas that might lead future members of the workforce to local companies in a variety of sectors.

"Industries are basically just begging for (workers)," said Fay Barber-Dansby, a senior lecturer in Purdue Polytechnic's School of Engineering Technology. "There is a high, high demand and a lot of jobs going unfilled, probably millions, in supply chain. We've known with COVID the challenges in supply chains that we've had.

"We're committed to helping this community of girls be all they can be," Barber-Dansby added. "Of course they're going to be potential students of ours, but we work so closely with many industries, and they say do all you can, we're going to support it."

The program also included a session with celebrity chef Domonic Tardy, which caught Clark's attention because of her interest in cooking.

"It's something I want to be able to do," she said.

Barber-Dansby added that program participants also include homeschooling students as well as others from ACS and additional mentoring groups.

"It's been a collaboration between a multitude of organizations that are working with the girls on a regular basis," she said. "It just made sense, because they're already in organizations and have a high interest, and the families do, too."

©2021 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.