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Growing STEM: Students explore future STEM careers with Northeast Ohio utility companies

Cleveland STEP has been giving students the opportunity to visit premier institutions and interact with professionals in the field since 1994.

CLEVELAND — Dozens of students from across Northeast Ohio are learning about electricity, including the things that can cause a power outage, like squirrels or tree branches. 

Trained professionals demonstrate different scenarios using the FirstEnergy safety trailer.

 “It was really cool knowing how something could activate something. Like the smallest mistake could make a big spark,” said Shweta Sithish, a 7th grader at Strongsville Middle School.

Seven thousand volts are running through the power lines. Electrical safety is serious business, but it can be a good career. The Cleveland Student Technical Enrichment Program, or Cleveland STEP has been letting students see STEM in action by visiting premier institutions for almost 30 years.

“It'sreally cool because I get to learn a lot of cool things I didn't know before. We get to go to a lot of cool places,” said Sithish.

Like the Foundry, or building an air quality sensor out of Legos. Even NASA engineers stopped by over the course of the year. 

It's all about creating that spark.

“It's really worth it to find a career. It could also help them out in their future because it's a lot of things that I didn't know, that now I know,” said Hayven Crawford, a 7th Grader at Milkovich Middle School.

“It allows our future employees to really dream about what they can be and what they might want to do,” said Angela Jones from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Cleveland STEP is a partnership between Cleveland Water and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to get students are thinking about STEM careers by giving them access to places they may not have known about.

“They're learning about so much that they wouldn't see on an ordinary basis, like a behind the scenes, VIP treatment, to learn about Cleveland STEP,” said Laquania Graham, the education and outreach administrator for Cleveland Water.

That’s why FirstEnergy opened their doors.

“We're just kind of giving them a glimpse of what it's like in the utility business and hoping that we capture some energy,” said Pat Mullin, FirstEnergy’s acting president of operations for the state of Ohio.

Students also meet the people that are going to discover things they haven’t even thought of yet.

“We're looking at potentially our future engineers in the company and potentially leaders and people who are going to change our future,” said Mullin.

If you know of a 6th to 9th grader interested in exploring a STEM career, Cleveland STEP is expecting applications for the 2023-24 class. Click here to apply online.

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