Dallas: Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence
See how Texas Instruments, Ericsson, and the Girl Scouts joined forces to spark girls' interest in STEM and build a pipeline of future engineers for Northeast Texas.
Achieving Tomorrow’s “Voices” highlights the impact educators, administrators, community leaders, parents, and businesses can have when they join forces to help students succeed.
Search the stories below by state or topic and learn more about these inspiring communities.
A Foundation for Change
Solar Preparatory School for Girls believes that girls can make a positive impact in their communities when STEAM is incorporated into their curriculum starting in kindergarten.
Building Confidence and Inspiring Excellence
The STEM Center of Excellence not only provides girls with the opportunities to participate in science-based programming, it helps them build confidence through mentorship and support.
Growing the Texas STEM Workforce
To increase diversity and cultivate the STEM pipeline, executives at Texas Instruments and Ericsson came together to invest in future generations of STEM leaders.
A Foundation for Change
Achieving Tomorrow with the Minnesota Vikings
PRINCIPAL, MARY WELTY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
To me it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’re wearing, who your parents are. I have no doubt that every child can succeed. And that’s what I tell them.
Our school had a theme this year of ‘College and Career Ready’. Even though the children are very young, we called the universities and asked them to send us brochures. We wanted to show the students where they could go and to tell them that each one of them is capable of making it there. We take them on field trips to the University of Arizona, which is so close by. They get to see what lies ahead of them and begin to understand how their education journey will take them down that path. I had a class walk by the chemistry building and at the time, we were studying science. They saw the students and the figures of scientists outside and said “Ms. Gamez, look! They’re studying science just like us!” It was so special to watch them make those connections. They start to understand and imagine what’s possible for themselves.
We want all our students to think of what’s possible, to believe that anything is possible. We have a lot of English Language Learners here in Nogales – I was one myself, actually. It’s a unique experience, but we don’t let it stop us from holding everyone to the same, high standards. We want to prepare them to succeed, not just inside the classroom but outside the classroom as well. And we make sure everyone knows they are just as capable as all the other students, no matter what their background is or what challenges they might face.
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT CURRICULUM & INSTRUCTIONS, NOGALES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT #1
We never settle. Good is never good enough. How can it be when those are all our children? We always push one another. Improvement is continuous here in Nogales.
What I think makes us different here in Nogales is that we have great partnerships. Actually, that’s probably an understatement, they are enduring relationships between all of the stakeholders: community members, parents, educators and business people. We all work together to be sure that our children are the best that they can be. I think that’s what makes this city so special. We say, ‘Juntos, si podemos’: ‘Together, yes we can’. That’s the attitude here in Nogales.
Education is very important to everyone here. Families stay and grow and create new families. We have that interest in making sure our students do well because they aren’t just our students, they are our grandchildren or our children or our neighbors’ or friends’ children or grandchildren. We are a family. I think in other places they may say that it takes a village to raise a child, but this is something we actually do.
SENIOR FELLOW, HUMPHREY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Prior to working in early childhood education, I was the Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. I tell people, I used to worry about banks, now I worry about babies.
I got involved in education completely by accident. I was working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and I had lunch with an early education advocate. This was fifteen years ago now. I told him, “I have a problem with your argument. You’re basically making a moral argument that early ed is the right thing to do.” And I was concerned that this reasoning wasn’t going to work because policymakers have limited dollars and many competing priorities. I said, “I think you’d have a better chance, politically, if you made an economic argument.” And this trickled back to the Governor and the Mayor. They called me and asked me to help make the economic argument.
I began my research and what we discovered was that the return for investing in early childhood education is actually enormous – 18%! We calculated and recalculated, and we now realize that this is likely a conservative estimate. It’s very clear that if you invest in children early, especially those that are most vulnerable, they can start school healthy and ready to learn and they will succeed.
I’ve argued for almost two decades now that the best economic development you can do in this country, is to invest in young children. I call them my High Return Children. If they succeed, there are not only benefits to the children themselves, but enormous social benefits; our communities are so much healthier, our schools are so much better, and our workforce is so much stronger. Early childhood development is economic development.
I try to stay apolitical about this, to say that it’s just about the numbers and the return. But once you get into the field, once you see the impact of these investments, of early childhood scholarships, it’s hard not to feel affected. It really is hard.
Building Confidence and Inspiring Excellence
A lot of the companies here in Dallas really support the Girl Scouts.
If they didn’t invest their time, money, and energy into these mentorship programs by bringing their workers here to help the students, I don’t think we would actually turn the next generation onto STEM careers.
3RD GRADE MATHEMATICS TEACHER, HUNTSVILLE ACADEMY FOR ACADEMICS AND ARTS
Years ago, when I finally got a hold of the new, higher standards, I felt like my teaching life had been made right then and there. It finally gave me the freedom to teach. You can approach the standards anyway you want, so you can help every single child in their own way. That’s what I absolutely love.
Higher standards allow children to think; to become problem solvers. Sometimes, children are looking for someone to give them the answer. My students know that doesn’t work with me. I make them ask questions. I allow them to think.
I tell them it’s okay not to have the answers, to struggle. I equate it with the butterfly and the caterpillar. I tell kids, “when butterflies are trying to emerge out of the cocoon, it looks like they are having a hard time, but it’s for a purpose. They have to struggle because that makes their wings stronger. If you help the butterfly get out of the cocoon, well, now their wings aren’t strong enough. Now they can’t fly.” Now think about that as an eight-year-old. If I’m giving you the answers, if I am telling you what to do, you will never be strong enough to take on those twenty-first century jobs and have those skills that it’s going to take to get you to the next level.
Higher standards let them become better thinkers. To me, better thinkers are better doers.
GARRISON COMMANDER, REDSTONE ARSENAL
We rely on a wide variety of skill sets and are dependent on the best and brightest in the world. In order to attract and maintain the best we need to provide more than great job opportunities; we need to do everything we can to provide a great quality of life in areas outside of job satisfaction. Education is a big part of that.
There’s incredible technology research and development going on here in northern Alabama. Education is a priority for us because our employees need to continue their educations, we need to replenish our aging workforce and because our employees want the same educational opportunities that they enjoyed for their kids.
We rely on the community and they also rely on us. We want our education systems to be world-class – from Pre-K programs all of the way through to PhD and beyond. Our missions are world-wide and even interstellar. It’s amazing to think what the next generation may accomplish and we’re grateful to have good education partners with common goals.
VP OF OPERATIONS AT THOMSON REUTERS – FINDLAW
We can’t prepare people for the jobs of the future with structures of the past.
I work in digital marketing, which is a rapidly evolving business. A few years ago, I realized that we had a huge need for human capital, but that no one was teaching the skills we were looking for. We were hiring people and training them from scratch. I realized this was a ripe opportunity for partnering with a higher education institution. We found a willing partner, the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and worked to create a targeted curriculum. We now have dozens of students enrolled and we are creating a pipeline of skilled workers. My employees also help to write and teach the curriculum, which gives them a lot of job satisfaction.
I was able to do this because my company has created a culture that allows for innovation. Now, more and more folks in our industry have heard about this work and have joined us. When we work together to support a skilled workforce, everyone benefits. We can’t just lament that we don’t have the talent we need. We have to innovate and contribute, whether that’s by working with higher education institutions on training, or going in to high schools and getting kids excited about our work by showing them the pathways to get there. We all need to be part of the solution.
GRADUATE OF NOGALES HIGH SCHOOL. CURRENT STUDENT AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Neither of my grandparents ever had the chance to go to school. They were both born and raised in Mexico and didn’t finish elementary school. They instilled in my mother, who instilled in me, the importance of a good education.
At first I was really nervous about going to Stanford, because the majority of students come from private schools where they’re really prepared and where they’ve had private tutoring their whole life. However, once I got there, I realized that I was actually a lot more prepared than I thought. I’ve always known that I’m capable and I did really well in Nogales, but I didn’t know if that was going to translate well to such an elite institution. Then I started college and I realized how amazing my teachers were and how amazing the opportunities I had were.
For example, Nogales High School requires all seniors to do a senior capstone project where you research a topic you’re really passionate about, write a paper and then present it to the entire community. At first a lot of students here were really hesitant, but I think it really prepared me for the projects I’ve had to do in college.
I was also really surprised by how many people I’ve met that don’t speak a second language or have never been out of the country. Those are the experiences students in Nogales have all the time here. It made me realize how lucky we are: Nogales prepares its students for their future academically and beyond.
Light-bulbs came on. Kids began to understand what they needed to learn. They better understood what their goals need to be in school, what they need to study to go into a particular profession.
We sponsored a robotics competition this past year and the really cool thing is not only do participants learn a lot, technically, about how to build a robot, how a robot functions, how you might get the most out of it, but there’s also a big teamwork element. The competition is based upon solving a real-world problem. We tried to help them understand this is exactly the kind of thing that you would be doing if you came to this company. Of course, slightly different situations, but these are exactly the kinds of procedures and things that you need to learn to do this for a living.
There were kids there that knew absolutely nothing about robotics in the beginning, but they found the role they could play, they found something they could get interested in, and hopefully they latch on and come work for us one day. We, as a business, have to work alongside education here in Huntsville to help kids be better prepared.
HEALTH CARE CONSULTANT, OPTUM; FORMER UNITED HEALTH FOUNDATION DIVERSE SCHOLAR
Challenging students to excel, no matter where they come from, is so important. Often students don’t understand how much they can achieve until they start doing it.
I was born in Liberia, West Africa. As an immigrant student from a developing country, going through the U.S. education system was really hard. The high standards were challenging, but in the end, they helped me to succeed. I was able to get into an amazing college, and I received a scholarship from United Health Foundation that made it possible for me to actually attend. And they didn’t just support me financially – I felt like they actually believed in me. The Diverse Scholar program helped to shape my entire career and afforded me professional opportunities and inspiration for my work in healthcare.
Having a strong STEM education has been so important for my work – it’s actually crucial for so many jobs. It teaches you how to think, how to solve a problem, and how to approach an unknown. I can apply the ‘way of thinking’ that I learned during STEM classes to everything I do, including the pivot I made to the business side of healthcare. At Optum, we’re constantly solving healthcare issues and healthcare problems, and the ability to think critically is a crucial part of this.
Dr. Deborah Barnhart
CEO, U.S. SPACE & ROCKET CENTER
Space Camp cracks the cosmic egg of whoever comes here. We’ll let you really reach out and handshake the future, to try out what feels right for you and discover what path you might be able to go down.
Here at Space Camp, we’re teaching kids how to bridge themselves from where they are today to where they want to be, and helping them start to understand what that path really looks like. We’re trying to support formal education with informal experience in a way that gives them a creational feeling about how to get there. I can’t teach a child 5th grade math or 7th grade biology while they’re here for a week; but what I can do is show them the different tools that they’re going to need in their toolbox to create their future, so that they understand why they have to take physics and why they need that chemistry class.
We truly believe that the potential for greatness exists in every child. The trick, for those of us who are leading and nurturing, is to bring that potential out. We take that responsibility very seriously. I’m reminded of a young woman who came through our visually impaired program. She was 10 years old the first time she came through. She came back a second and a third time. And today, that young woman is sitting on the console at the Marshall Space Flight Center, directing science experiments onboard the International Space Station. I think coming here lets the students’ dreams come alive. They begin to blossom into the person they know they can be. That’s the most important magic that happens here.
DIRECTOR OF SUPPORT SERVICES, CARONDELET HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL
I live in Nogales. I work in Nogales. I really have a vested interest in helping this city to succeed. And for the town to succeed, our kids must succeed. It’s that simple.
Twenty years ago, when I started working at the hospital, there were positions that didn’t even require a high school diploma. Now, the hospital has changed so much, as have the skills and experience of our workforce. Actually, our entire society has changed and become more advanced. I’ve seen this trend in the education system, too. Students in high schools in Nogales are now heavily involved in planning their future and the actions they need to take to build their careers. It’s amazing to see how focused they are and how rigorous their curriculum is.
We try to support that planning through our engagement with the local high schools. We have students come into the hospital for job shadowing, and it really allows them to imagine their futures. I don’t think there’s any way of knowing if you want to be in a certain field for the rest of your life unless you realize what it means to attain a particular position and the schooling that is involved. We’ve actually seen a lot of students who have done shadowing go on to become full-time employees in our hospital, so these have had a strong, two-way benefit!
PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
If you look around the success stories of the state, you’ll see that there’s a common link, and it’s innovation. Innovation has kept the state very competitive, and we believe if we continue to advance our innovative nature, combined with our workforce advantages, we’ll be successful in the future.
Here in Minnesota, we’re heavily engaged in education because it’s the future of our state’s workforce. The availability of skilled workers is at the top of mind for virtually every sector of our state’s business economy. That includes traditional sectors, like manufacturing, but also our evolving high-tech sectors, which require advanced skills and STEM training.
Minnesota has had a long tradition of providing a skilled, high-quality, hard-working workforce. Today’s workers may not be tomorrow’s workers and as business evolves, as our economy evolves, we need to make sure that the workforce evolves with it. That’s why we stay connected with the institutions of education: to make sure they’re meeting the needs of the workforce today, and the future workforce as well. This partnership will help ensure that we have a bright future for Minnesota.
For our education system to thrive, we need to continue setting the highest standards for ourselves and for our students-from early childhood to K-12 to postsecondary or college and beyond. We need to constantly look ahead, to be agile and flexible. We’re also very dedicated to making sure there’s a meaningful connection among workers, employers, and educators, so that the students of tomorrow will understand the connection to the job opportunities that exist for them.
Huntsville, Alabama is also know as "The Rocket City"-- not only because it is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, but because it is always looking towards the future. Huntsville provides tremendous opportunities for students to enter high-skilled, high-tech career fields, and the demand for skilled workers is higher than ever. The business community has rallied together to inspire the next generation of dreamers and doers by investing in education programs that equip teachers, school leaders, and parents to promote problem-based learning through hands-on experiences at school and at home.
Nogales is a major port of entry between the United States and Mexico and a bilingual, binational city. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle, educators in Nogales see this as an asset-- they are developing students who can work in two languages, and who have skills like flexibility, adaptability, and resilience. These soft skills will help students be successful in whatever path they follow in life-- and the business community in Nogales provides career exploration opportunities to help students find and succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.
In Northern Kentucky, elementary schools, postsecondary institutions, community partners, and business and industry leaders recognize the importance of investing in their children's success. By setting high academic standards and clear goals and extensively using data to ensure children are making progress, Northern Kentucky has created a strong collective impact to provide high-quality education to all students and prepare them for the future workforce.
Recognizing the valuable lessons that can be shared with students, Minnesota's business community is committed to giving back to schools and students. By applying academics to real-life situations like owning a business or working as an athletics trainer for the Minnesota Vikings, students understand the relevance of what they are learning and how it will affect their future, sparking a new excitement.
Working hand-in-hand with the business community of Las Vegas, the Clark County School District holds their students to high expectations and aims to close the achievement gap. Through adopting schools, sponsoring academic teams, and imparting the importance of soft skills, the Las Vegas community is helping students recognize their potential and achieve their dreams.
In 2010, Texas Instruments approached the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas with a problem: by 2020, TI would not have enough engineers to hire in Texas. With major support from companies like TI and Ericsson, the Girl Scouts built the STEM Center of Excellence, a 92-acre living laboratory centered around STEM activities. With 88% of girls who went to the STEM Center of Excellence reporting increased interest in STEM careers, the the STEM Center of Excellence is already making strides in fostering a long overdue STEM leadership pipeline in Texas.