Special Report: STEAM Success

El Paso, TEXAS (KTSM) - Two Borderland districts are touting their all-girls campuses.

The Young Women's Leadership Academy with the Ysleta Independent School District was the first public all-girls school in El Paso.

For eighth grader Alyssa Ramirez, attending the school took some convincing from her parents.

"If I got into this school there'd be a lot more opportunities than if I wouldn't have come here," says Ramirez.

It wasn't long before she realized she made the right decision, Ramirez says she loves what she's  learning and is having fun while doing it. 

TWLA focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and math, also known as STEAM.

"We know the girls are strong in the math and sciences, now it's about building the self-esteem and the confidence," says Principal Malinda Villalobos.

This is why the campus focuses on steam: according to the National Science Foundation,  nationwide 80% of students enrolled as undergrads in engineering courses are men, only 19% are women. At UTEP, nearly 20.9%  of undergrads in the College of Engineering were women and 79.9% of undergrads in the College of Science are women.

YWLA isn't the only all-girls campus in El Paso, the Young Women's Steam Research and Preparatory Academy in EPISD is also challenging minds.

The EPISD Preparatory Academy is also a new tech campus, meaning curriculum is based on project/problem-based learning. Amaris Espinoza is a 7th grader, she too needed convincing from her parents but it's a decision she does not regret.

"There's a bunch of different projects that we do, and everything is very hands on and that's what i like about it," says Espinoza.

But what happens after college graduation? Theresa Maldonado, Dean of Engineering at UTEP says with an increased focus on STEAM and engaging girls at a young age, the next step is keeping them in El Paso, but there's a problem.

"We have extremely bright people here but the job opportunities are not here," says Maldonado. 

Maldonado says there are couple of ways to look at economic development, one is to attract high tech companies and the other is for people to start their own businesses.

YISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre says El Paso is a great place for businesses but the question is, if we bring the companies here, do we have the educated workforce.

"If the answer is yes then this would be ideal, if the answer is no then you as a public school system, and I take responsibility for that, need to do better at preparing students for college and or career," says De La Torre.

Dr. Cynthia Ontiveros, Principal at the EPISD campus says she wants to the students at her school to really envision themselves in the careers that are traditionally dominated.

"Not just see themselves but to know that they are capable", says Ontiveros.

Both the EPISD and YISD campuses have a goal to educate future leaders and prepare young ladies for careers where they are currently being misrepresented.

Although both students we spoke with are too young to truly know what they want to do when they grow up, they both know they will be prepared.

The YISD and EPISD campuses are open enrollment and have only one requirement, to have a desire to learn. As for an all boys campus, YISD officials say they plan to open one in fall of 2019 but with an entirely different focus. EPISD says they're in the very preliminary stages of that discussion.

 

 


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