Award-Winning STEM Program at Flintridge Sacred Heart Helps Young Women Break Barriers
When you enter the engineering classroom at Flintridge Sacred Heart in La Cañada Flintridge, what you will see defies the statistics of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
As girls reach high school, they tend to fall away from interest in STEM and end up underrepresented in related fields in college and careers. Yet at FSHA, the number of students taking STEM classes continues to increase year after year and graduates have gone on to major in those fields.
The secret sauce to Flintridge Sacred Heart’s success is its supportive all-girls environment. In a setting where girls are surrounded by like-minded peers, they are able to build knowledge and confidence with joy that doesn’t have to be hidden in the face of societal expectations. Challenges are embraced knowing that failure is a part of growth.
“The underrepresentation of women in STEM continues to be a huge issue and we are incredibly proud that our students leave the Hill knowing it is possible to be the person that challenges that belief,” said engineering teacher Ty Buxman. “Grades are not as important as the ability to look at a problem from all different angles. Success only comes through repeated failure. The process is what matters.”
In addition to programming, engineering, robotics and AP computer science classes, students have co-curricular activities in coding, robotics and cybersecurity along with outside opportunities with Boeing and nearby JPL. Through the school’s unique Honors Engineering for Social Good class, students create and test projects such as a portable prosthetic cooling system for amputees and a machine learning camera for wildlife detection.
Even as FSHA and its students have been recognized with awards nationally, teacher Jeannie Finley kept a focus on the mission.
“It is all about exposure and experience for young women,” she said. “If students do not have exposure to computer science or engineering in high school, they are not as likely to pursue these majors in college.”
Gabby Anich will begin her studies in honors engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology this fall. As she enters a challenging co-ed environment, she will take the lessons she learned from FSHA with her.
“Just having a safe space to try and learn and grow has been critical to my growth as a student here,” she said. “Because of that I felt confident in applying to some of the top engineering programs for college.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
President: Sister Carolyn McCormack, O.P.