Shadow Day offers students involved in STEP with experience on campus to learn more about college programs, provide networking opportunities

Ashley Simmons

Students from Monroe County schools involved in the Science and Technology Entry Program, or STEP, participated on Nov. 11 in the Shadow Day event at RIT.

When activities and events are organized through the Science and Technology Entry Program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s K-12 University Center it not only helps spark a conversation about STEM subjects among youth in the program, but also provides them with an opportunity to network. After all, they’re exposed to RIT students, faculty and staff that could be just the right resource needed to open the door to other experiences they might not have had otherwise.

That, STEP Director Ashley Simmons said, is one of the main messages of events like Shadow Day.

“You never know who is watching and you never know where experiences can take you,” she said. “It helps get them in the mindset to use these experiences as an opportunity to build a resume and make connections because you never know what door it will open.”

Held on Nov. 11, Shadow Day welcomed 23 STEP students from various schools across Monroe County who registered to be part of the one-day, all-immersive experience that allowed them to visit classrooms on RIT’s campus, be paired with a student mentor, and learn more about college majors and programs that interest them in STEM – or STEAM – fields of study. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Sometimes an “A” is added to the acronym to include the arts.

The high school students spent the day in classes such as engineering design tools, game design and development, global business, human genetics, introduction to psychology, organic chemistry and more. Shadow Day also included a scavenger hunt-based campus tour, college student panel, and the chance to connect with professors and other university faculty members.

“One of the things we like to do is see what major they’re interested in, and then pair them with an RIT student in that major, so they can talk about what it’s like,” Simmons said. “It’s an authentic conversation and experience, and the idea is that going into the classroom will spark conversations about things they might not have been exposed to before.”

Called one of STEP’s largest on-campus events, Simmons added that what she’s most thankful for is the collaboration among professors, other faculty and the participating student body to helped make the event possible. In its first time being held since before the COVID-19 pandemic, she also said it was the largest group of participants in the Shadow Day program, among the schools they work with, such as Greece Athena, Greece Olympia, Rush-Henrietta and Vertus Charter high schools, and more.

STEP is a state-funded precollegiate initiative that provides outreach to seventh- through 12th-grade students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups to support pursuing college and careers in STEM fields, as well as New York state licensed professions. The goal is to provide afterschool and weekend enrichment activities to help foster academic growth, the development of a STEM identity and more, so students can successfully transition from middle school to high school and high school to college or the workforce. Three Outreach Specialists – Rick King, Dana Storti and Megan Winnick – and Assistant Director Lisa Michalek also work on site at various schools in Monroe County, providing in-person STEP services.

Another STEP campaign includes STEAM Saturday that provides robotics and research experiences for students on Saturdays throughout the school year. Additionally, facilitators from various partnerships on and off RIT’s campus will provide hands-on STEM workshops, providing students with another opportunity to network, while broadening their horizons.

*STEP Director Ashley Simmons contributed to this report


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