Arconic donates $20k to boost girls’ STEM program

WEATHERSFIELD — Programs like the YWCA of Warren’s Girls’ Camp provide a way to meet the shortage of skilled workers needed in STEM careers, the president/ CEO of the United Way of Trumbull County said.

“With programs like this, we can reach out to young people as early as age 11 and get them involved in STEM education and have a better understanding of what a rewarding career, both intellectually and financially, they can have,” Ginny Pasha said.

Pasha joined Kenya Roberts-Howard, YWCA executive director, and several representatives from Arconic Niles Operations on Friday at the company’s Weathersfield plant to discuss Girls’ Camp, STEM programs and the importance of introducing girls to opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.

Leaders at Arconic’s local operations presented a $20,000 check from the Arconic Foundation to the United Way and YWCA. The money will help fund a comprehensive STEM program for area girls ages 11 through 18. Two five-week summer camp programs are planned for next summer.

Pasha said the contribution will enable the two partner organizations to expand Girls’ Camp in 2018 to include high school girls. Traditionally, the program, designed to foster girls’ interests in STEM fields, has focused on girls in middle school.

Maria Arraiza-Monteux, supply chain manager at Arconic, said it was appropriate to present the check on Manufacturing Day, which is held each year the first Friday in October to celebrate modern manufacturing. Throughout the day, companies, schools and organizations in the Mahoning Valley joined those across the state and nationwide to mark the day with various events.

“There are many opportunities in engineering and technical and this is a way to open those possibilities up to more girls who may not know about them,” Arraiza-Monteux said. “To mark Manufacturing Day with this significant grant underscores the importance of preparing tomorrow’s workforce for successful and rewarding careers that advance the future of manufacturing while keeping our communities strong and vibrant.”

Arraiza-Monteux, who has a degree in chemical engineering, joined Arconic six months ago. She said she is an example of the efforts companies like Arconic are making to recruit women. The New York-based company makes aluminum, titanium or nickel parts for planes, cars and electronics. The company was spun off from aluminum company Alcoa last year.

“I’m thrilled Arconic is sponsoring a program like this,” she said. “It’s so important to introduce girls to the possibilities they have.”

The YWCA partners with area educational institutions and manufacturing companies to enhance their STEM skills while participating in fun activities and building self-esteem, Roberts-Howard said.

She said the lack of Kenya women in STEM-related occupations and careers is well documented.

“The U.S. Commerce Department reports that although women fill close to half the jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of those jobs in STEM-related fields. Yet, women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women who are in non-STEM-related jobs,” Roberts-Howard said.

She said starting next year, Girls;’ Camp will be divided into two groups with 20 girls in each. One group will include ages 11 to 14, while the other will focus on ages 15 to 18.

“As an African American, as a female, and more importantly, as an African-American female with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, I truly understand the impact these types of programs have on exposing young girls to non-traditional careers and I commend companies like Arconic for supporting organizations like the United Way and YWCA in our efforts,” Roberts-Howard said.