Preparing students for a future in STEAM

The STEAM program at STA allows students interested in those fields (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) to pursue opportunities that will prepare them for a future in STEAM and get more involved in the STEAM community.

by Lucy Doerflinger, BNS Editor

In 2016, the STEM/STEAM certificate program was established at St. Teresa’s Academy. The program is designed to provide experiences in the STEM field both in, and beyond, the typical classroom. These opportunities include shadowing professionals in different STEM fields, from aerospace to fashion design, STEAM electives and E-mentoring. 

The program is run by the director of STEAM projects and education Mandi Sonnenberg. She is working to grow the STEAM program at STA and get more students involved. 

“I work with [students] on developing new clubs and experiencing STEAM,” Sonnenberg said. “I noticed not a lot of students use the MakerSpace, so we started bringing in students and teaching them how to use some of the things in the MakerSpace. The goal is by the end of 2021, the students will be running the makerspace under my supervision.” 

Educating students about STEAM and getting them interested is the first step for Sonnenberg. Then she works on finding out what the students are passionate about within STEAM and giving them more information about careers in those fields that they may or may not have considered. One resource she utilizes is the extracurricular Full Steam Ahead.

“It’s bringing in a speaker every month that talks about all different careers in STEAM,” Sonnenberg said. “I just ask the group, what do you want to hear more about and then try to bring in someone who can express a new career in STEAM that they maybe hadn’t thought of.” 

The goal of these extracurriculars and events is for the students to eventually get their STEAM or STEM certificates. The certificate is given senior year to students who were able to complete all the requirements. The certificate requires four credits in math, four credits in science, two STEAM electives, one year of E-mentoring, nine hours of job shadowing and 10 STEAM-related, volunteer service hours. Despite the many requirements, Sonnenberg still sees the program as so much more. 

“The STEAM certificate is actually an experience,” Sonnenberg said. “There are some requirements, but when you get down to the experiences, that’s where you really get to choose. If there is something you are really interested in, a shadow, a workshop, it is my job to make sure that you get that opportunity.” 

Sophomore Teresa Elfrink is currently working toward getting her STEM certificate. She wants to go into a STEM-focused career, and this certificate gives her a lot of experiences and opportunities within the field, before actually getting a job. 

“I feel like it has given me some connections to actual places,” Elfrink said. “I know that this will help me a lot with connections whenever I get into the professional world and am applying for jobs and internships.” 

Along with giving personal and professional connections, the program also pushes students to pursue opportunities they may not otherwise have. This is something senior Jeanne Eckles enjoyed about it.  

“As I look back, it did take a lot of time,” Eckles said. “However, the things I did outside of STA were stretched over a three-year period so they never really felt stressful to me, and they were things I looked forward to and enjoyed. The E-mentor aspect connected me to a practicing architect who gave me really valuable advice that I will carry into the future.” 

One of the best things about the program as a whole for Eckles was the STEAM/STEM community and all the support she received while working on the certificate. 

“I think that [the STEAM program] is a great opportunity for students to realize their potential within the STEAM/STEM field,” Eckles said. “I felt so supported by the community and probably would not have pursued the certificate without their encouragement.”