Fostering Confidence through the STEM Scholars Program

Fall Semester 2022 of The Word Magazine | Erin McCarville
Founded by Specialized Studies Department Chair and Mathematics Faculty Connie Farrow and Academic Dean Dr. Heather Mansfield in the spring of 2020, the DSHA STEM Scholars program is designed for motivated DSHA students who are curious about and willing to engage in learning and applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The program requires rigorous coursework, participation in a STEM-related co-curricular, and attendance at quarterly meetings where they discuss or participate in STEM-related opportunities and offer support to one another. STEM-related research is recommended. The program has grown from twenty-three students enrolled in the 2020-21 school year to sixty-five in the current school year.
Casey Masterson, DSHA ’23, has always had a passion for numbers. “I’ve always loved math but I became
even more interested in 8th grade when it started getting harder. I liked that there was a set of rules to follow in order to reach a goal,” she stated.

Upon acceptance to DSHA, Masterson was eager to continue to explore the subject. As she started choosing specific classes, she gravitated toward advanced level mathematics courses taking Honors Geometry her sophomore year and Honors Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus her junior year. This year, she is enrolled in both Calculus and AP Statistics.

“AP stats is my favorite class I’ve ever taken,” she expressed. “I really like probabilities and using numbers you already have to predict numbers you can have in the future.” Masterson credits this course to influencing her desired future career—business analytics.

“It’s cool because my dad is an engineer and my mom was a business major,” she explained. “I’m getting to
combine both.” Receiving STEM support and encouragement at home, it was actually Masterson’s father who encouraged her to apply for the STEM Scholars program. “When my dad first mentioned it, I looked into it and realized I was already taking many of the required courses out of my own interest,” she said. Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity, she applied and was accepted.

As she started to attend STEM Scholar meetings, Masterson found it “inspiring to see other girls my age, and even younger, know that they want to do something in the field.” Recognizing that STEM is often a male dominated space, Masterson thinks a program like this is invaluable at DSHA. “It’s so important to foster STEM interest and confidence in girls, especially at a young age.”

Wanting more exposure to women in the field, Masterson had the opportunity to tour HUSCO, International Inc., a privately-owned company that specializes in hydraulic and electro-mechanical control systems, with students enrolled in DSHA's Introduction to Engineering course and the STEM Scholars Program. Girls were given a tour of the facility and listened to female engineers talk about their journey into STEM. While there,  Masterson again found herself inspired by women in the field. “Seeing their poise and how they conducted themselves in the work environment, not just with us as visitors but their colleagues as well, was inspiring,” she said. “They were making it a welcoming place for everyone.”

Knowing how vital it has been for her to see women working in STEM roles, Masterson started thinking about how she could provide that same example for other women. “I would like to do service work with younger kids interested in STEM or get a group of girls together to talk about STEM related careers to younger kids. I want to be an example for young women,” she expressed. “I want them to see that they can do this work. I want to show them that girls can like circuits, numbers, and math.”

Preparing for her future, Masterson shadowed a statistics lecture while touring St. Louis University. She was excited to realize that she was already familiar with most of the information “I recognized everything he was talking about in class,” she said. “I feel very prepared for the next phase.”

Masterson recognizes she feels ready because of the content she’s learned in class, and also because of her environment at DSHA. “The encouragement from my teachers and the inspiration from my other female classmates have really enabled my confidence in my STEM abilities to grow. The confidence is something I will carry with me as I continue pursuing this field.”


Paulina Jimenez Gonzalez, DSHA ’24, grew up thinking she wanted to be a lawyer. It wasn’t until she enrolled in a few STEM courses at DSHA that she was exposed to a new field, and subsequently, a new interest.

“When I started high school, I became more interested in STEM, especially engineering, because of all the opportunities I have had here that I wasn’t exposed to in middle school,” she said. After excelling in her STEM courses her freshmen year, Jimenez Gonzalez was encouraged to join the DSHA/MUHS Robotics team her sophomore year. It was during one of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics competitions that she realized she might want to pursue an alternate path. Increasingly interested in STEM, she decided to enroll in the Introduction to Engineering course her junior year. The course, which quickly became her favorite, solidified what she was beginning to realize — she wanted to be an engineer.

“I want to be behind the scenes and learn how things are made and built,” she stated. Realizing her new career aspiration, Jimenez Gonzalez decided to take advantage of as many STEM opportunities as she could at DSHA. She became a mechanical lead of the robotics team and started looking for STEM related internships in the area. Hearing of the STEM Scholars program, she immediately applied and was accepted
for the 2021-2022 school year.

“I wanted a community of women that had the same interests as I did. Just the idea of a STEM program with all girls seemed really empowering and supportive,” she stated.

For Farrow, Jimenez Gonzalez described exactly what she was hoping to achieve with the creation of the program. Farrow shared, “we wanted the program to be more than academics. We wanted to give the girls
support. STEM is not the easiest curriculum to navigate and to know there are other students interested in the field and sticking through those hard math and science classes, is really important,” she expressed. “It’s all about support.”

As a junior, Jimenez Gonzalez has started thinking more critically of her future career as an engineer. She is excited by her own passion for the field, along with the impact she could have in the lives of others.

“I want to discover and create things that can make life easier and better for people. For example, in my Introduction to Engineering Course, I’m making a device through the Computer Aid and Design application that would make it easier for the elderly population to cut their nails.” Projects such as these have been extremely fulfilling to her. “Engineering allows me to follow through in the part of my faith that teaches me to be of service to others,” she expressed.

Girls’ school graduates on average report greater science self-confidence than coeducated peers in their ability to use technical science skills, understand scientific concepts, generate a research question, explain study results, and determine appropriate.
Dr. Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, University of Kansas City, Missouri, Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University

All-girls’ school graduates are 6 times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology compared to girls who attend coeducational schools.
Goodman Research Group, The Girls’ School Experience: A Survey of Young Alumnae of Single-Sex Schools

Compared to coeducated peers, girls’ school graduates are 3 times more likely to consider engineering careers.
Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College


SMART Team |
Students Modeling a Research Topic—Students work in teams to understand
a molecular story and then design and build a physical protein model.
HOSA | Health Occupations Students of America—HOSA is dedicated to preparing students
for future careers in the health/science field. HOSA is meant to empower its members to become
leaders in the global health community through education, collaboration, and experience.
Math Club | Students participate in math games and puzzles designed to foster critical
thinking skills.
Robotics | The award-winning Hilltopper Robotics Team is a collaboration between DSHA
and MUHS students. Students will build, program, and operate robots as well as handle the
web design, marketing, and fundraising side of the program in preparation for competitions.
    • Casey Masterson, DSHA ’23, puts her problem-solving skills to the test in AP Statistics.

    • Paulina Jimenez Gonzalez, DSHA ’24, shares her Introduction to Engineering project with Principal Dan Quesnell.

    • DSHA STEM Scholars and members of the Introduction to Engineering course visit HUSCO, International Inc., to hear from women working in STEM.


No comments have been posted

Divine Savior Holy Angels High School

Sponsored by the Sisters of the Divine Savior
© 2017 Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. All Rights Reserved