STEM Academy students honored Monday

Juniors in the biomed, engineering and computer programming pathways at STEM Academy were lauded Monday in a special program at the University of Texas Permian Basin gym.

Community partners who provided internships for the students also were recognized and will receive. Project Lead the Way teacher Karey Grametbaur added that juniors, their mentors and the internship coordinators would be honored.

Biomed students got white coats with their last names on them; engineering students got hardhats; and computer programming kids got keyboards.

According to oilfield tradition, hard hats couldn’t be worn until they were dirty — or at least looked used, so the students went outside to scuff them up before putting them on, math teacher Michael McMillan said.

During the event, Director Shannon Davidson announced the launch of a pathway to teaching program for next year.

Karey Grametbaur, Project Lead the Way teacher at STEM, said the students will receive a STEM endorsement at graduation next year. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“This is a recognition to be celebrated,” Grametbaur said. “Our community partners have spent countless hours pouring into our students. Your commitment to the next generation is commendable and we appreciate you so much.”

The experiences students get in their pathway classes helps them choose their career path.

“In addition to experiences, students also learn valuable collaboration, communication and problem-solving skills …,” Grametbaur said.

Nicole Olivas, a high school social studies teacher, talked about the importance of internships. She also received a gift for her dedication to the internship program.

“This program takes countless hours of networking, checking on and coaching our students,” Grametbaur said.

Students in the STEM Academy biomedical pathway pose for a group shot after the Pathway Celebration Monday at the UTPB gym. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Olivas said internships are not just about earning credit and padding a resume. They let students apply what they learn in the classroom to actual work situations.

“They provide unique opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a professional environment, gain hands-on experience and build valuable connections in their … interests,” Olivas said.

They also help students develop essential skills, discover their passions and give them a chance to network with professionals in their chosen field, potentially opening doors to future job opportunities.

Students interned for a variety of employers around the city such as City of Odessa, Odessa American, companies and pharmacies.

Students also spoke about their experiences in their pathways. Mason Perkins spoke about biomed; Maci Jo Baker talked about engineering; and Quinn Boyer talked about computer programming.

Davidson said the Pathway Celebration was a beautiful way to highlight the student’s hard work and celebrate them going into their senior year.

“That fourth year can be a tough year; just so many demands on our seniors, but it’s a good way to get them excited about all the possibilities coming and help them start thinking about their futures, as well in their pathways,” Davidson said.

She added that the Pathways Celebration will likely become a yearly tradition.

“We used to embed it into our general awards ceremony, but it’s such an important piece of who we are we decided it needs its own celebration,” Davidson said.

The celebration is mostly for juniors, but there were a few seniors.

She added that she thinks it will motivate them to keep going and it’s meant to motivate younger students in ninth and 10th grade to see what’s in store for later years.

“Before this celebration, we had the Signing Day celebration and so it was a really good experience for our younger students to see how hard our seniors work at getting ready for their next steps after graduation,” Davidson said.

As for the teaching pathway, the school found that they were producing teachers.

“We wanted to honor that and we love that, but we also wanted to stay true to who we are here at the STEM Academy. It just became the perfect combination of developing and helping grow math and science teachers here at the STEM Academy,” Davidson said.

They will start with juniors and seniors and they might grow as time goes on.

Davidson said the goal is to get juniors all the way through the program in two years and see how far they can get the seniors.

“We’ve been working with the College of Education … on the course sequence and making sure that those courses can transfer over into the university here at UTPB,” she added.

They are also working with Odessa College.

“UTPB and OC have that nice partnership, the OC to UTPB (in 3), so we’re playing off of some of those courses and making sure that it all has a nice sequence and can transfer either place,” Davidson said.

Grametbaur said the Pathways Celebration idea started around January. She added that the festivities went well.

“They seem to be smiling. Mainly I wanted to celebrate our kiddos. They’ve been working so hard for three years to make sure that they understood what they worked for is super important,” Grametbaur said.

She knew they had internships, but this year she got to know some of the community partners.

“They’re just doing so much for our kiddos” and the real-life experience is invaluable, Grametbaur said.

“It’s fascinating the amount of time that they’re spending, so I wanted to highlight our industry partners this year because they are just … super invaluable,” Grametbaur added.

Their senior year, the pathway class becomes an internship, so the Pathways Celebration marks the end of their formal training and them moving into the real world of their pathway.

Students still go to class in the morning and then move to internships in the afternoon.

“I’m just thankful for the support of everyone that came out … It takes lots of hands,” Grametbaur said.