Kevin Kohn, a sophomore at Whittier High School, enjoys science, especially chemistry. He aspires to become an engineer one day because he believes the profession can have an impact, helping to create jobs and offering solutions.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can still make an impact with engineering,” he said.
It is students like Kohn who can make a difference someday. And recently, engineers from Southern California Edison (SCE) visited Whittier High School to inspire 120 freshmen and sophomores to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math).
Partnering with the nonprofit Great Minds in STEM, SCE’s parent company, Edison International, recently hosted a Viva Technology student assembly to help motivate students to consider working in the STEM fields.
“STEM is not as hard as some people make it to be, but it is no walk in the park either,” said Eric Bradley, a transmission engineer at SCE and the first in his family to pursue a STEM career. “Don’t be fearful or discouraged if you have to be the first in your family. Someone has to go first.”
Bradley was joined at the school by fellow SCE engineers during National Engineers Week to provide some insight into what it is like to work in the STEM fields.
In addition to talking to the engineers, the students competed in an interactive STEM Jeopardy that tested their knowledge about all aspects of STEM. The students worked alongside university student role models and had opportunities to win prizes.
Sophomore Karina Jimenez enjoys math, but always thought STEM jobs were boring. But the SCE engineers have now peaked her interest in the STEM fields. Her plan is to join the U.S. Air Force and eventually pursue a major in engineering.
It’s a path similar to that taken by SCE supervising engineer Lindsey Sayers who spoke at the Viva Technology event.
“You don’t have to be a valedictorian to have a successful STEM career,” she said. “You just have to have a passion for STEM.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that from 2008-18 STEM jobs will grow 1.7 times faster than non-STEM jobs. And currently, the U.S. is not producing enough candidates to fill them — only 16 percent of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers.
“All four [SCE engineer] presenters were excellent. I appreciated the diversity they represented,” said Lori Eshilian, principal of Whittier High School. “They connected with students and were engaging in a highly cultural relevant way, offering firsthand information in the field of engineering and applied sciences that our teachers are not able to provide.”
Edison International has sponsored Great Minds in STEM since 2005. This includes the HENAAC Scholars Program, where scholarships are awarded to undergraduate students pursuing a STEM degree.
“At Edison International, we recognize the skills needed for our future workforce and to help advance our country,” said Tammy Tumbling, SCE director of Philanthropy and Community Investment. “So we focus our educational funding on scholarships and supporting programs like Great Minds in STEM that prepare students to excel in the STEM fields and to promote the inclusion of underrepresented students in these academic fields.”