Hillsborough County Public Schools launched a new Mission: Tampa Bay program to foster a love of science, engineering and technology while teaching career skills to young girls in December 2022.
The Sea Stars program is partially funded through the Department of Defense grant and partially funded by its partnership with the Tampa Bay STEM Network. The nonprofit community network consists of local science and research companies that are working together to offset the remaining cost of the new program.
Mission: Tampa Bay is an all-girls STEM Camp that allows young scientists to immerse themselves in STEM activities in fifth through ninth grade. Based on the positive response it has received from the community over the past six years, the district began the Sea Stars program for its alumni.
“It’s a build-on program for all the alumni…where they will work with mentors in the community. So, we’ve got approximately 15 professional STEM experts from a variety of fields,” said Larry Plank, executive director for K-12 science education.
This team of female STEM experts will work with and mentor 20 girls over the course of the program. Each group of girls that participates in the Sea Stars program will meet once a month for a year at a research or science facility to learn about a specific STEM field.
The yearlong program kicked off on December 5 in 2022 at The Florida Aquarium, where the 20 Mission: Tampa Bay alumni that were selected for the program met their mentors and were introduced to the program.
All the participants are alumni of Mission: Tampa Bay and were selected through the application process. Based on their responses to the application, they were paired with a mentor and had the opportunity to meet virtually or in person.
“[Sea Stars is an] extensive program where they’re paired with mentors, professionals in STEM, to help them actually build a leadership plan for themselves so that they can start thinking about what they want to do with their career and have some support along the way from professionals who’ve been there,” said Debbi Stone, senior vice president of engagement and learning at The Florida Aquarium.