On June 28th Young Invincibles and Innovate+Educate hosted the Youth Summit at the 2012 U.S. News STEM Solutions Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas. “STEM” refers to Science, Technology, Education, and Math education, subjects that are critical for important and growing industries and for the recovery of the US economy. For many young people choosing a career, STEM education can provide a pathway to a good job that makes an impact in their community, but we can do more as a country to encourage students to go into STEM. By increasing the number of graduates with STEM skills, we can both bring down youth unemployment and provide our industries with the skilled workforce it needs to compete.
The STEM Solutions Leadership Summit brought together industry leaders, educators and policy makers to discuss how to close the growing gap between available STEM jobs and workers with the required skills. The Youth Summit provided an opportunity for high school, college, and graduate students from the Dallas area to have a voice in the STEM education conversation.
“Being at the Innovate+Educate and Young Invincibles U.S. News STEM Solutions Youth Summit 2012 was an amazing experience. We saw a lot of innovation and practical uses for a STEM education program in schools. We saw a lot of support for this program from students, teachers, principals, superintendents and companies, especially during the Philanthropy conference… We believe that students and their community should be involved in implementing STEM programs in their school district. It will better their education and society.” – Anna C.
The Youth Summit was a wonderful opportunity for students of all ages to congregate and to discuss how to improve STEM education. Todd Williams, Education Policy Advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, gave the opening remarks and set the ambitious tone about STEM success.
“I enjoyed meeting all the interesting and passionate characters who came together for the purpose of furthering STEM education. I can’t say I met everyone, hundreds and hundreds of individuals attended this conference, but everyone I did meet was inspiring. The main issues that everyone seemed to focus on was to promote the availability of STEM programs and educate people on what it means to be in STEM.” – Humsini M.
The Youth Summit also included an address and a Q&A session from Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler. Laura spoke about the power of overcoming stigmas and staying goal-oriented. She also spoke about her study of music and its relationship to STEM education, and the students really enjoyed having a celebrity come and spend time talking with them.
“The conference was very interesting, the background and struggle of Miss America was very encouraging. Miss America was a great example for students who think that life did not treat them right and now want to continue studies or participate in hard subjects like STEM.” – Madikha B.
The keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Sandra Magnus, NASA Astronaut and engineer. Dr. Magnus focused specifically on the creative aspect that is often overlooked in STEM education. This Q&A that followed was enhanced by a call the students made to the International Space Station where they spoke with NASA astronaut André Kuipers.
“In my participation in the STEM Summit I heard many things involving problems with the American youth. The problems were that many minorities don’t go to higher education and that people are not doing studies that involve STEM. I myself want to become a Civil Engineer and will contribute with the help of the STEM programs. I think that this summit was really great because we had the chance to meet Miss America but the most incredible part was meeting an astronaut and speaking with people on the International Space Station.” – Daniel H.
Another highlight of the program was the small group discussions with leaders in STEM industries, including Intel’s Jami Grindatto and Dean of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, David Chard. These small group discussions gave students an opportunity to ask questions and get advice from those at the top of their field.
“We enjoyed being here today with the summit youth group collaborating with all these youths and sharing how we feel about STEM and how we can attack these problems…The youth of today are our future leaders of tomorrow and need that guiding hand to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood in their lives. We would hate for our youth to become discouraged and uninterested in something they’re passionate about and have the potential to be great in.” – Chambriel G., Ismael C., Henry J., Mayro C.
After these discussions, students attended panels that focused on solutions to the skills gap between STEM education and the workforce. It was then, at the end of the conference that the students spent time formulating solutions together.
“I think teachers should teach above and beyond the standards that the state requires them to teach their students. Yes, students should learn the basics, but that’s not going to teach them anything new. Teachers should teach their kids more than is required of them. They should provide their students with a challenge rather than giving them the answer. If you teach students what to think then in the future they won’t know how to critically think for themselves.” – Erik F.
” Coming from a low-performing school allows me to see how the education system has failed to teach ‘learning’ and focused on ‘following’ instead. It is good that they show students how to think and treat them like adults.” – Jeanette C.
The Youth Summit was a particularly important part of the U.S. News STEM Solutions Leadership Summit because it highlighted the youth voice in a conversation that must include young people. The conversations and discussions were incredibly enlightening, and it was obvious that STEM leaders enjoyed interacting with the youth delegates as much as the youth delegates did with leading thinkers, industry professionals, and educators. This summit also clearly demonstrated that in order for the United States to effectively address the skills gap in STEM fields, future conversations on STEM education must include youth, our future STEM experts.