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Students learn from professionals of color at STEM event

Students learn from professionals of color at STEM eventApproximately 75 students and educators gathered to hear from seven professionals of color in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM) as a way to engage students of color who are interested in pursuing a career in one or more of those fields.

The event opened with a message from Dr. Roger Cleveland, a professor in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University, included presentations from industry professionals, a student Q&A, group activity, and a presentation on Career and Technical Education.

One of the presenters, Deidra Smith, is a talent manager at Colorado Technology Association (CTA) and hoped that students would learn from this event and feel affirmed in their identity.

“Representation matters,” shared Smith. “It’s important for students to see something different and I hope that students take away that you can show up for who you are and still be successful in what you do.”

Students learn from professionals of color at STEM eventPresenters spoke about challenges in the workplace, such as handling microaggressions, including comments about appearance (often related to hairstyles for Black professionals of color). They also spoke about how to create more equity in the workplace and gave recommendations, such as:

-Ensuring a company has a pay formula to avoid discriminatory practices
-Taking ownership to be actively inclusive to peers
-Set up weekly check-ins
-Be yourself in the workplace

“As I move up, I look back to pick someone else up,” shared Tomi Oyekan, a Civil Engineer Officer in the Colorado Air National Guard. “You deserve to know that you belong in the room.”

Student attendees agreed that this event was a good opportunity to hear from professionals of color in a variety of fields who could share the lessons they learned and advice they had for the next generation. 

Students learn from professionals of color at STEM event“Just seeing people who have been somewhere near your position and seeing where they’re at now and hearing their experience is actually very resourceful,” said Smoky Hill High School senior Khavi Mack. “I think it can help us get further and help us grow.”

Mentorship is a critical piece of providing career and technical education to Cherry Creek Schools students, and presenters encouraged students to seek out internships and to get as involved as possible in their desired field. Students were encouraged not to give up from one rejection letter, and to remember that failure is the journey to success.

The list of presenters included:

-Dr. Roger Cleveland, Professor in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University
-Ayesha Davis, Meteorologist, NOAA, National Weather Service Boulder
-Tomi Oyekan, Civil Engineer Officer, Colorado Air National Guard
-2nd Lieutenant Luis Gutierrez, 140th Civil Engineer Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard (Air Force)
-Deidra Smith, Manager of Tech Talent Denver, Colorado Technology Association
-James Cooth, System Administrator/Engineer, Bluestaq LLC
-Maria Ledesma, Assembly Lead, Reata Engine

Posted 10/2/2023.