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Grandview High School breaking STEM field stereotypes

Posted at 4:37 PM, Apr 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-16 17:44:52-04

GRANDVIEW, Mo. — According to the American Association of University Women, less than 15 percent of engineers in the United States are women. 

While that number has improved over the years, it’s still only a small percentage of women in the workforce. 

Grandview High School is working to get more young women involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

Junior Chayanne Sandoval-Williams said she never thought she’d be in any STEM field. 

"I wanted to do theater. I really thought I was going to be like a backstage producer, theater star,” said Sandoval-Williams. 

Her mind changed after skimming through her first coding textbook. 

"Now I know like three or four different languages, and it's crazy to know that this has all been within the span of three years,” said Sandoval-Williams. 

Now wrapping up her junior year at Grandview High School, Sandoval-Williams is helping bring more girl power into the classroom. 

"Chayanne, remember her name because you will hear about it again in the future,” said Scott Sisemore, Director of Instruction Technology with the Grandview School District. 

For nearly five years, the district has been working to expose more girls to STEM. Every elementary, middle school and high school in the district now has a robotics program. 

"Kids can't be what they can't see, so if they don't know about the opportunities that are available to them, it's very unlikely that they're going to be able to be that when they grow up,” said Sisemore. 

Just three years ago, the high school started an all-girls engineering class in hopes of kicking stereotypes to the curb. A classroom that once had only three girls has more than 20. 

"I really do believe every girl in that classroom could be an engineer, an architect, a programmer, anything that they want to be, but know that they started here and they're no longer intimidated to begin with, they know that they could pursue it further,” said Sandoval-Williams. 

Sandoval-Williams has a message for girls interested in a male-dominated career field — ”Don't doubt yourself. You're a lot stronger than you think."

From theater to robotics, Sandoval-Williams’s success stems from what’s now the high school’s most popular class. 

Just a few weeks ago, Sandoval-Williams was one of 10 students in the country to be selected for FIRST Robotics Team’s Dean’s List Award. On Wednesday, she’ll travel to Houston, Texas for the chance to be an international winner.