School Bulletin: Students gain solid STEM start

School Bulletin: Students gain solid STEM start

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Engineering, computer science and biomedical science might sound like college level courses, but students at Catholic Memorial High School are getting an early introduction into those STEM subjects.

"We have our own 'Design Thinking Model,'" Donna Bembenek, the president of Catholic Memorial High School, says. "Whether that's used very practically in engineering or applied when you're working on a project in social studies, it's really about problem identification. You create a hypothesis about how to solve that problem, and you test that hypothesis. You learn, you fail and you try again."

For the fifth year in a row, Catholic Memorial has been named one of the top STEM schools in the country by Project Lead the Way, which is a non-profit developing STEM curriculum and offering teacher training. The high school is one of just 191 schools in the U.S. and one of 14 high schools in Wisconsin to receive this honor.

At Catholic Memorial, the students can apply for the internship program once they get the basics down, and they can interview with Waukesha County-based companies. Now some are working in research labs, for engineering firms and even at pharmaceutical companies.

The school president says it's a chance for the kids to "be able to take their learning outside the classroom, to real world settings." She also says the kids are building confidence in communication and time management.

"[The employers] are now calling us because they have really found high value in our students and the educational foundation," Bembenek says.

Bembenek says in the first year of the internship program only 11 students were enrolled. Now more than 50 are participating, and 54% of the school is taking STEM courses. She says more young women and students of color are signing up. And recent graduates have told the school, they are being placed in higher level college classes and landing more internships because of the STEM program.

"It's exciting for the students while they're here, but it's also very meaningful to them as they take the steps out of high school and into their careers," Bembenek says.

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