This month's first Saturday found Harbor Ridge Middle School's campus awash with 200 eager sixth to eighth grade girls, a large number of specialists in various professional disciplines and 50 high school volunteer mentors. The occasion: CAPE, the Career And Pathway Expo. The purpose: expose girls to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Every one of the young ladies I saw was totally absorbed in learning. Although some said it was fun, and there were smiles, the seriousness of the occasion was all pervasive.
Kopachuck sixth-grader Halle Fort “realized a career that I finally really like that I didn’t know much about before, becoming a nurse.” Classmate Mio Jones, who had a great time at CAPE, realized “I could pursue my dreams and have my dream job.” Mya Renn “really enjoyed sewing up an orange to act like a surgeon.” Classmate Amy Washbond “learned so much and was so excited to be here.” Her favorite class was marine animals. “I learned (a lot) about (them)," she said.
Outdoors, the Gig Harbor police, a patrol car, officers and Explorers planning careers in law enforcement gave the girls a feel for that career field. Indoors, GHPD and Port Orchard PD personnel conducted a forensics program. The Tacoma Fire Department exposed the girls to firefighting as a profession. There were veterinarian classes with live animals, and Harbor WildWatch had live creatures from the sea for the girls to touch and examine. Medical personnel conducted hands-on suturing exercises, and engineering problems were solved by building “earthquake-proof buildings."
KPMS sixth-grader Jade Hoskins said, “I really want to be a nurse now.” To her classmate Kaitlyn Tucker, "the speakers were phenomenal.” Both girls appreciated the green Washington State Ferries swag bags provided to every participating student.
Alaska Airlines provided a mock aircraft cockpit and controls for students to “get the feel” of flying a jet. Instructors were Alaska Airlines pilots Kim Grennan and Lisa Tank, a retired Air Force C-17 Globemaster III pilot from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where she previously served as vice wing commander for the 446th Airlift Wing, a Reserve unit at the air base. Tank and Grennan are developing and instructing flight training for Alaska Airline pilots.
To Goodman Middle School sixth-grader Alexis Nussbaum, “This was a great thing to do.” She “got to learn about planes and data chart stuff and finger prints.” Classmate Isabel Schupner would really like to go again. “It was fun going to different classes, especially Shake It Up, in which the kids built buildings and destroyed them in earthquakes."
The girls even used state-of-the-art ultrasound and Doppler equipment, scoping a baby in the womb of an expectant mother who graciously offered to help with the exercise.
Harbor Ridge Middle School seventh-graders Shania Loucks learned how to surgically remove a gallstone, and Claralynn Hammel, who couldn’t “explain the feeling I have on showing my love for math and science,” and, "someday hope(s) to become a doctor,” found CAPE “unbelievable!”
After brown bag lunches brought by each girl to the school’s commons, everyone gathered in the gym for a fascinating success story by Dr. Elizabeth Gray, who gave the closing remarks/slide show.
"I enjoyed being able to share my STEM-related career and life experiences with such an enthusiastic group of young women,” she said. "I am grateful to the women who preceded me in the fields of aviation and medicine, and feel fortunate to have had a chance to pay it forward to the middle school girls at the CAPE event.”
Gray’s daughter, Sarah White, a third-grader at Gig Harbor Academy, found, “It meant so much to me to come to Harbor Ridge. I loved learning about aviation, veterinarians and ER.”
Joy Giovanini, who spearheaded the event, reported that post-event results exceeded expectations. Sixty-nine percent of girls who attended reported that CAPE made them more confident to take math, science and STEM electives in the future, 90 percent stated that CAPE increased their interest in STEM careers, and 100 percent of attendants said they would recommend CAPE to a friend.
I gotta tell ya, folks, few events have left such an uplifting impression on me as my day with CAPE.