STEM Signing Day provides college and career springboard
Growing up, Virginia high school senior Ayonnah Tinsley said she never saw engineers who looked like her.
It wasn’t until her time at Westfield High School in Fairfax County Public Schools, where she began meeting female engineers, that her perspective began to change, she says.
“Social media really doesn’t show the true diversity or like what an engineer can actually look like,” says Tinsley, who will attend the University of Southern California next year. “I go to meet so many females engineers, some who have the same curly hair as mine, who wear sparkly lab coats and sparkly shoes, which you don’t see on TV or social media.”
To show younger students the potential for diversity in STEM, Tinsely even wrote and illustrated a children’s book, This Is What an Engineer Looks Like.
“Representation really does matter for little girls and boys,” Tinsely says. “STEM and STEAM are a huge umbrella where they can find their passions.”
STEM signing day
Tinsley’s path to college, where she intends to pursue a degree in arts, technology and business of innovation, got a boost from participating, with about 600 other students, in the annual STEM Signing Day, sponsored by Boeing and powered by the Tallo scholarship platform.
“Just like how athletes are showcased on special signing days, we’re celebrating students across the country who are committing to pursuing STEM degrees at four- and two-year college,” says Casey Welch, CEO of Tallo, a free service that allows students to showcase their qualifications and talents.
STEM Signing Day, now based at 15 sites in its fifth year, took place virtually in 2021, which allowed more students across the country to connect. Also new this year, Boeing and Tallo have launched a STEM mentorship program to connect students with professionals, Welch says.
“Students are really appreciative that they are being recognized for their academic achievements,” he says.
Past signing day participants are completing degrees or working for large employers while others have created nonprofits, including organizations that are addressing systemic racism, Welch says.
Tinsely has applied to be a part of the Boeing mentorship program.
“I want to to use technology to help improve how people learn, whether that’s corporate training or improving the education system so students don’t feel secluded when they can’t learn in the same way other students can,” Tinsley says.