Gateway: Living

Expo opens career path doors to area girls in science, math, arts

KPMS seventh-graders Nyla Page and Sydney Kreis work on their CAPE “See it, Design it, Build it” project.
KPMS seventh-graders Nyla Page and Sydney Kreis work on their CAPE “See it, Design it, Build it” project. Contributing writer

The enthusiasm for learning that pulsates each annual Career And Pathway Expo is infectious! April 7 was even more so.

It’s to encourage middle school girls to consider careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Each year, I’m impressed that over 200 young ladies are deadly serious about absorbing as much knowledge in one day.

The 200-plus girls included volunteers from Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools who help move things along. The middle schools each had about 40 girls attending.

The event’s key organizer, Joy Giovanini, Peninsula Schools' K-12 highly capable program coordinator, said, "High schoolers helped set up the night before CAPE, create the high energy for the event with their incredible spirit and superhero attire, genuinely and warmly welcomed girls as they entered CAPE, and supported the expo teachers and workshop leaders. The impact high school volunteers have on the event is so important because of the talent and time they pour into the day as well as the 'cool factor' they bring with their presence.”

During lunch break, I handed paper and pens to a cluster of students who happened to be from Kopachuck Middle School.

Ansley Brogan wrote, “I’m at CAPE because women only make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce and I want to change that.”

Her friend Kealanei Dmega said, “I’m here to learn to put stuff together because when I grow up I want to build houses.”

Olivia Hollett was, “here to learn about STEM careers and try to figure out what I am interested in.”

Her buddy Ashlyn Pepich was, “here because STEM is something I love."

“What I learned at CAPE was how forensics actually works,” said Goodman seventh-grader Abigail Matthews. "I have always been interested in the subject and it was so fun getting to see how it works firsthand.”

For classmate Amanda Schupner, “One of my favorite parts of CAPE was the team-building exercises. I learned a lot about working together to help others, and it was really fun.”

“I learned about baby resuscitation," said Goodman eighth-grader Izzy Stretz. "I also learned about successful communications and how police officers handle crime scenes.”

Gig Harbor residents John and Kim Golden — a neonatologist and newborn/pediatric nurse respectively — volunteer with nongovernmental organization LDS Charities as specialists in newborn care and intensive care. “We provide teaching and training on skills that help our beneficiaries save lives of newborns,” said John Golden. "Kim and I have taught in Barnaul, Siberia and Liberia. I have visited and taught in Nigeria, Botswana, Namibia; also Nepal, Armenia and Romania."

The international training program is Helping Babies Breathe, the Goldens said. It teaches those who deliver babies and attend deliveries in resource-deficient parts of the world how to help a newborn who is not breathing after birth. This training — when used correctly — helps saves lives and decreases handicapping conditions. The middle school students practiced these techniques on simulated babies.

"Our sponsor has provided this training and other similar trainings in over 45 countries of the world where newborn death rates are too high,” said John Golden. “These countries and their health care providers — doctors, nurses, midwives, physician assistants — welcome and accept this training knowing it will help in their efforts to lower newborn deaths and disabilities."

Among Kopachuck eighth-graders, Balie Johnson said, “I am getting out of this a chance to discover more pathways than I could imagine and to gain the self confidence to walk down them with a smile.”

Serena Javid liked the hands-on aspect of CAPE. “I dissected a sheep eyeball, held a sheep heart, and listened to my friend’s heartbeat.”

Zerah Florance, project manager for Washington Patriot Construction, a general contractor in Gig Harbor, led a session in construction management.

“We played a communications game where each girl was given a role in the building process — owner, architect, engineer, subcontractor, etc. The owner got to see a ‘vision' of what they wanted to build — a pre-assembled Lego model — and had to describe what they wanted to the designers who passed that info on to the builders who built their own version with another set of Legos. We focused on all the different professions involved in construction and the importance of communications in the design and construction process, ” Florance said.

The homemade health products booth was headed by Artondale elementary’s STEM specialist Patricia C. Verdella Keenan. Its purpose was to help students learn more about caring for their bodies' largest organ, the skin.

"Students participated in a make-and-take session of kitchen chemistry where they made bath salts and sugar scrubs using everyday household supplies in an effort to help them take better care of their skin,” said Verdella Keenan. "As we made health products, we discussed what to look for in the ingredients like good emollients (softeners), humectants (moisturizers) and exfoliants (skin buffers). Many girls expressed that they were swimmers and needed better ways to moisturize their skin. By simply adding some coconut oil to their bath salt, they can help solve this problem. They learned that Epsom salt can also be used as an ingredient to add volume to hair, strengthen hair and remove scalp build up.

Information was provided on dermatologist career responsibilities and salary ($330K) in the event students might seek a real interested in skin healthcare as a career.


"This was an amazing opportunity to see future careers. I loved them all,” said HRMS’ Elly Kotelnicki. Her schoolmate, Haley deLine felt, "The guest speaker was very motivating. I liked all of the career choices."

Goodman seventh-grader Kya Schumacher said she learned a thing or two about submarines. "We had fun trying to make them float. They consisted of a potato covered in balloons and it looked like an avocado. I will definitely do it again next year!” she said.

And I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at