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STEM Signing Day: 4 students chart a path to the future

STEM Signing Day: 4 students chart a path to the future

At age 6, Maram Bouhdache went to the airport for the first time. She was starstruck by the metal engineering that transported people safely around the world. “I loved watching the planes take off and land, and how the pilots just knew what they were doing,” she says.

This spring, Bouhdache will graduate from high school at the Highline CHOICE Academy in Burien, then take flight — to attend Green River College and study air traffic control.

Bouhdache is one of 49 high school seniors being celebrated and recognized during the 2022 Washington state STEM Signing Day, presented by Boeing. Just like college signing days for athletes, the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) leaders signed a letter of intent to pursue a two- or four-year credential in a STEM field. The students were chosen based on their accomplishments and involvement in STEM education.

“Our state is so fortunate to have a bright future in the hands of these dedicated, creative, accomplished students who are choosing to use their talents in many critical STEM fields,” says Gina Breukelman, Boeing Global Engagement senior manager, Northwest Region. “I am inspired by these students’ dreams and hard work, and I look forward to seeing their innovations in medicine, engineering, computer science and more.”

Opportunity awaits these students: Washington state employers are expected to create 373,000 net new jobs in the coming five years, and a majority of these jobs will be filled by people who have a post-high school credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship or certificate.

“Completing a credential after high school, as these students are on track to do in many high-demand fields, opens the door to rewarding careers in our state,” says Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, a nonprofit organization that includes senior executives from the state’s major private sector employers.

Bouhdache’s path started in Techbridge, an after-school program for fifth and sixth grade girls that encourages STEM participation. “I found it interesting and realized I might want to do STEM,” she says. The girls coded, built structures and visited local companies like Microsoft.

Bouhdache’s mom has encouraged her all along the way. “My mom is my main supporter, after seeing how much I enjoyed planes, science and STEM, she encouraged me to do what I love and promised I won’t regret it.”

As a junior and senior, Bouhdache participated in the aeronautical science pathway, which offers 30 college credits per year.

“I’ve always loved planes and airports and anything to do with aviation,” she says. “Knowing that there is a career where you can be involved with planes but not needing to be in the cockpit made me excited.”

Meet 3 more STEM Signing Day participants

Name: Riya Affrin

High school: Franklin High School, Seattle

Signing with: University of Washington, computer science

Affrin grew up surrounded by computers but became fascinated by STEM after an intro to programming class and college-level calculus courses. She’s drawn to the field by income security, new and more opportunities for women in STEM, and a chance to contribute to the world.

“I hope to give back to my community,” Affrin says. “I grew up with immigrant parents who didn’t understand English or technology very well, a common issue in my community. Parents relied on kids in so many different aspects. I hope to start a program that helps teach parents how to use technology and not rely on their child.” 

Encouraged by her older brother, Affrin plans to go into user experience design — a blend of math, programming, psychology and creativity, she says. “UX design helps make apps and websites better for the user and it seems like the perfect mix of art and programming.” 

Name: Marlene Gonzalez

High school: Wenatchee High School, Wenatchee

Signing with: Johns Hopkins University, neuroscience

Gonzalez became interested in STEM thanks to a seventh grade biology class. During independent research time, Gonzalez delved into stem cells and chimeras and presented them to the class.

Gonzalez’s English teacher encouraged her push toward STEM. “I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to pursue STEM-related courses,” she says. “He told me that if I never gave it a chance, I’d never really know for sure whether I’d succeed as a STEM student. It turns out that I just needed a little encouragement to pursue a STEM path in college.”

She signed up for medicine-minded opportunities, including a sports medicine internship and a one-day Scrubs Camp and the Cancer Kids First programs. At the University of Washington, Gonzalez participated in the Community Health Professions Academy, which offers mentorship and hands-on opportunities to learn about various health fields.

In high school, Gonzalez earned college credit through AP courses, College in the High School classes, and a dual enrollment program with a local community college. This fall, Gonzalez will pursue a neuroscience major with a pre-professional focus on pre-med — hopefully leading to a future career as a neurologist.

“I’ve always wondered how our brain functions and transmits signals throughout our bodies, so I’m excited to learn more. We don’t know a lot concerning the brain and its mechanisms,” she says. “It’s like a vast pit of mysteries, and I’ve always loved a good mystery.”

Name: Arshpreet Tagore

High school: Henry M Jackson High School, Mill Creek

Signing with: University of Washington, computer science

In ninth grade, Tagore took a class that offered coding and engineering projects. She also got involved in the Washington Aerospace Scholars, an online learning course and summer experience for high schoolers that explores space and space travel. WAS included additional coding experience, sparking Tagore’s interest in computer science.

Tagore says she’s excited by the coding process and the fun of “trying to figure out a way to solve the problem and why the code isn’t working.” 

Running Start courses at Edmonds Community College earned Tagore college credit while still in high school. Next, she plans to take her coding skills into the aerospace field. “I want to prove myself as a first-generation immigrant, but I also want to do it for fun and make it my strength to help the world in this way,” she says.  

Partnership for Learning, the education foundation of the Washington Roundtable, brings together business leaders and education partners to improve our state’s education system, so Washington students are ready to pursue the career pathways of their choice. Learn more at credentialessential.com.