Advancing education: Warden STEM Day connects students with career pros

Mar. 20—WARDEN — The Warden School District held its first Post-Secondary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Day fair Thursday evening in the Warden High School Gym, with STEM professionals visiting the school to hear students' presentations on different career paths, followed by a networking event.

Warden math teacher Mitchell Stanberry, one of the event's organizers, said the event went well.

"I thought the format was really positive and good. I was really excited to have the STEM professionals come be part of it. I thought we had a good assortment of different STEM professionals for our first year," Stanberry said. "The attendance was a little light; I think we're going to have to do a better job of getting more information out to families and students about the importance of connecting with STEM professionals for post-secondary success, so that'll be the emphasis."

Next school year, Stanberry said the school is looking to increase attendance by holding the event in November when there are fewer scheduling conflicts and fewer students are busy with sports.

Stanberry said he feels like the students gained a valuable experience from the event.

"The kids were really excited about the colleges too," he said. "Big Bend (Community College) was there, Central (Washington University) was there and so was Washington State (University) ... I was excited to see them come and talk with our students."

Feedback from the STEM professionals was also positive, Stanberry said.

"I talked to some STEM professionals and they were pretty excited about the conversations they had. They thought it was good for the kids," he said. "Now it's just working out the kinks and making it a better time frame and getting more people to participate."

Stanberry spoke more about the networking portion of the STEM day.

"We had multiple students interested in the medical field," Stanberry said. "We had a couple of doctors...They talked to lots of kids about nursing and different medical things, and then we had some people from this high school that have graduated that kind of allow our students to see the potential of what they can do, so that was exciting."

Various organizations in the Columbia Basin attended the STEM day, as well as several former Warden graduates, such as NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Engineer Marleen Martinez Sundgaard, who visited the STEM day and conversed with students.

Another Warden alum who attended the STEM day was Cassondra Martinez, a former teacher who now works as a product manager for Instagram. Martinez said she liked the event's format of hearing from the students and then allowing students to hear from the professionals.

"I think that mentorship and just being exposed to all these different careers is really important because I definitely didn't know this was a possible career," Martinez said. "I think that's really important for that for this community that hasn't been exposed to different careers like that, just having someone to connect them."

Warden High School junior Graciela Castillo said she wanted to become an architect, so she did her presentation on the career path to becoming one.

"I feel like my way of presenting this is to show people that not only is architecture a STEM job but it also is a way to express someone's art," Castillo said. "It was a very good experience. I'm really happy I got to experience what the professors and doctors said."

Warden junior Kaylie Vela said that she benefitted from the presentations and feedback from the STEM professionals and from seeing what other students had researched, as well as from the STEM professional's own experiences and stories during the networking session.

"That was awesome, talking to the different professionals in the medical field, in different parts of the medical field, talking to the different colleges that were set up here and getting to talk to people and ask them about how they got to where they are," she said. "Seeing what school they found, what they wish they did differently and what they would have done a million times over."

Stanberry said the STEM day was a step beyond teaching students curriculum and skills.

"We're getting a lot of kids to pass the state test and get into college-level math and become competent," Stanberry said. "This is the next iteration for our STEM staff, to try to get kids to not only be good at math and be competent at math but to then see math in their world and then to be excited about the math in their world enough to want to pursue stem professions. That's really the goal of my project."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at