Oconto Falls High School girls attend STEM workshop

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Oconto Falls High School students who attended a STEM workshop at the Milwaukee School of Medicine are, top row from left, Shelby Salamonski, Amber Proctor, Jordan Rennie, Lyndsey Luebke, Ashley Britton and Lauryn Slade; second row, Mercedes Risso, Erin Effenberger, Lydia Murphy-Hendricks, Samantha Coron, Natalie Brauer and teacher Constance Rauterkus; third row, Katie Kurth, Emily Greenwood, Morgan Blazek, Wendy Avila and Kayley VanDenEng; bottom row, Jaquelyn Gerlach, Brett Norling, Kya Pecha, Addison Hatch, Gwen Williams, Abigail Schmeisser and Sierra Seizyk. (Contributed photo)

A group of 23 girls from Oconto Falls High School attended a workshop April 28 at the Milwaukee School of Medicine titled “Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Professional Women.” Constance Rauterkus and Candice Behnke, high school science teachers from Oconto Falls High School, made arrangements and traveled with the girls for this event.

Rob Seeber, from the Riverview BP Quickmart, provided funding from the station’s Panther Pride pump to help pay for busing costs to the event.

Half of the college-educated workforce are women, but only 29 percent are pursuing careers in science or engineering, despite 74 percent having expressed interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in middle school. The Engaging Girls in STEM Initiative is a nonprofit organization determined to change that by encouraging high school-aged girls to engage with and be inspired by STEM professional women to more confidently pursue their own STEM careers.

This year, the initiative partnered with the Medical College of Wisconsin for their fifth Preparing to be Professional workshop, where 19 high schools across eastern Wisconsin sent 106 girls to participate. There, the girls worked in small groups with STEM professional women serving as role models from many local businesses including Baird, GE Medical, Johnson Controls, Lee Hecht Harrison, Rockwell Automation, Wisconsin DNR, Medical College of Wisconsin and many more.

At the workshop, Oconto Falls girls worked with multiple STEM professionals from a range of careers. The workshop focused on topics such as networking techniques, interviewing skills, tackling gender bias and building a professional brand.

“I liked that women from all different STEM careers were available,” student Addison Hatch said. “It was super useful to me to see how these women conducted themselves in a positive, professional manner. I loved that only women were there, and that other students were also high school students interested in STEM careers. This made it easier for me to talk to them and made me feel more comfortable asking questions.”

In the history of this event, Oconto Falls High School is the first group from outside the greater Milwaukee area to attend. With 23 girls, this group was also largest from any school in attendance that day.

“From what we (EgGS) observed and a number of role models told us, the girls from Oconto Falls were well prepared for the day and very involved in the discussions,” said Todd Herbert, founder of the EgGS Initiative. “Both are greatly appreciated by the role models as it makes for more meaningful conversations at their tables.”

This workshop marks the beginning of a partnership between EgGS and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“We are thrilled to be working with MCW given its long-standing commitment of support for women in STEM,” Herbert said. “Ultimately, it will be high school girls interested in STEM careers who will gain the most from this partnership.”