Forget the careers you envisioned as a kid. Today’s graduates are on to something new.
They are studying biomedical engineering, neuroscience and biochemistry.
Their goals are to develop new pharmaceutical drugs, engineer ways to use energy in a more environmentally friendly way, cure diseases and invent technology that hasn’t been thought of yet.
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You can thank science, technology, engineering and math-focused classes for these future scientists, engineers and doctors who took classes in high school to start them on their future careers earlier.
Among the top 20 students at Center Grove High School, at least 15 are planning to major in a science-based field. Clark-Pleasant is getting STEM based national curriculum that will introduce STEM to students earlier. Other schools have noticed an uptick in students choosing STEM-based careers.
Local educators said they have seen a boom in students planning to study STEM-based fields in the past few years because of the demand of the field, the high-paying jobs and the idea that they can learn the skills younger and that the skills will be more applicable in a changing job market.
And most STEM based careers, such as doctors and engineers are careers that can help people, another draw to those types of jobs, students said.
For Ally Colinco, a recent graduate of Center Grove High School, choosing a STEM-based career has been about helping people. She will study biomedical engineering at Cornell University.
Her goal is to create more medical technology and start medical clinics in third-world countries, she said.
She remembers visits to the Philippines and seeing an orphanage a family member started where the children got sub-par medical care.
And science and technology have become such a huge part of life, that students who excel at those subjects are naturally drawn to a career that leads them down that path, students said.
Amrit Parihar, a recent graduate of Center Grove High School, will study biochemistry at Indiana University.
Today’s scientists are making self-driving cars and finding ways to harness global energy, he said.
Their job as students now is to help build on that, he said.
“There has been such a huge emphasis on student’s STEM,” he said. “Science has become such a huge part of our lives.”
Part of the growing enrollment in STEM classes has been part of a national trend, said Jennifer Cahill, senior director of media and public relations for Project Lead the Way.
Students at Center Grove interested in STEM careers can choose to enroll in Project Lead the Way classes that focus on STEM skills, and the number of students who have chosen to do that has grown, she said.
Center Grove is adding curriculum and activities to their current offering of Project Lead the Way classes and Clark-Pleasant is gearing up to offer part of the program too, she said.
And those schools are part of a nationwide trend to add STEM classes, she said.
“We are seeing it all across the country,” she said.
Part of the draw is that STEM classes are more project-based and are focused on more hands-on learning, she said.
And schools are looking for those STEM classes to change the way some students learn, Cahill said.
“We are seeing more schools who want to move beyond the more traditional way of learning,” she said. “As students are presented with opportunities to see how their learning is relevant, they will take those opportunities.”
At Franklin, more students are taking advantage of dual credit courses in STEM fields, said Matthew Eskew, who teaches college-level courses at the high school.
Students who are graduating high school and choosing colleges and careers now were in late elementary school during the 2008 recession, he said. Those students noticed that doctors and engineers may be less affected by the economic instability that may have affected their family, he said.
Most STEM careers pay well, which could be guiding students towards those jobs, Eskew said.
“STEM careers offer job security and financial security,” he said. “They noticed that, it is the lifestyle.”