What Do You Want to Be When You Grow up?

Four years ago, that simple question started Janice Horn, TVA CADnet School to Work manager, on a journey that is positively impacting the lives of many girls to this day.  

TVA’s CADnet School-to-Work program helps young STEM students discover the joy of engineering—and even offers some a foot in the door at the nation’s largest producer of public power: TVA.

At first the program focused on recruiting older high school students for participation. “But by the time we reached our high school seniors to recruit for CADnet, they lacked the preparation to join the program,” said Horn. “There had to be a better way to inspire students to choose STEM careers—especially young ladies.”

To help, TVA began partnering with the UTC Challenger Center, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Girls Inc. on a TVA STEM camp to recruit younger girls who were high performers in science and math. 

Recently, Horn visited with some of the students who participated in TVA’s very first Girls STEM Camp. “Catching up with the girls as they prepare to graduate and start college tells me that we are doing something special here. This is truly an exceptional group of young ladies and I’m proud that TVA could be an impactful part of their journey.”

Hear What the Girls Have to Say

 

Amal Abazid: Abazid graduated second in her class at Red Bank High School with plans to attend Chattanooga State Community College and then transfer to a University of Tennessee school to complete studies in engineering.

“I knew I wanted to work in the sciences, but didn’t have much exposure outside the biology or chemistry classrooms,” Abazid said. “When I heard about the STEM program at TVA, I was so interested to learn more about engineering. You hear the word ‘engineer’ and it’s so broad and ambiguous that you don’t really know what that means for an everyday job.” 

Abazid said the opportunity to be a part of an intensive STEM program in early high school gave her the opportunity to sign up for more STEM-related high school classes. “Because I learned about computer aided drafting (CAD) at the camp, I felt more prepared to take it as a high school class.  

“TVA’s program helped me to narrow my focus and figure out my direction to pursue engineering for my future.” 

 

Komal Patri: Patri participated in the STEM camp as an eighth-grade student attending Girls Preparatory School. She will complete high school a year early to attend the University of Southern California this fall in a specialized program for computational neuroscience. Patri was one of only fifteen students who were asked to be a part of the program and one of only two who were awarded full scholarships.

“TVA’s STEM camp provides a unique experience that develops a better understanding of jobs in math and sciences—and it also looks good on your resume!” Patri said. “I’ve always been interested in working in the medical field, and I also want to engage with people. I want what I do to make an impact in people’s lives. 

“From my experience at the camp, I know I don’t have to be a nurse or a doctor to make a direct impact. I learned that the computer science/analytical field also provides the opportunity for me to engage with people and make a difference.”

Audra Carver and Sarah McCain: These students were voice majors from Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts. Both share a love of math and had been encouraged by family and teachers to take a look at engineering—something not offered at their school. 

 

Audra Carver most enjoyed the STEM activities that were in partnership with the UTC Challenger Center. 

“I am really interested in physics and the things we learned with the Challenger Center opened my eyes to opportunities in astrophysics,” Carver said. “I’ve made some great connections through the camp and have helped create projects for the Challenger Center summer camp.”  

After volunteering at the Challenger Center this summer, Carver will attend the University of Alabama at Huntsville on scholarship studying astrophysics at the honors college. 

 

Sara McCain saw the camp as an opportunity to see how math applied to jobs in the real world.

“The program coding really sparked my interest. Through the camp I also learned a lot about what TVA does for the environment. I want to be a part of what TVA does and help people. Now I know I can do that through my interest in STEM.”

A Bright Future 

As the Girls STEM Camp begins its fourth year with two classes — eight first year campers and eight returning campers — Horn is handing over the reins. Kara Mitchell, project manager in TVA Transmission and Power Supply will be the new lead. 

“We take everyone’s feedback to make this a better experience year after year, and I’m looking forward to what Kara will do to keep the program fresh,” said Horn. “What these girls are achieving is far beyond what I had hoped for when we started and I couldn’t be more excited to have been a part of their journey.”