Youth Minority Engineering Night Encourages Students Toward STEM Fields

Jose Pires doesn’t believe in Superman. He doesn’t believe in Superwoman, either.

At least, that’s what Pires told a teacher when he was starting high school. He’d come to the teacher for career advice. So Pires was stunned when the teacher asked if he believed in Superman. The question seemed totally off track.

“I said no. He said ‘good, that’s the first step; because with education, passion and dedication, you can achieve anything. But if you start having fears that there are people out there that are superman or superwoman, and they have all these things that you don’t have, then you’re never going to get anywhere,’ ” Pires said.

It was exactly what the then 14-year-old Pires needed to hear. That advice helped propel him for years, as he became the first person in his family to attend, and later graduate, college, and it helps him today, as the Director of Business Excellence for Black and Veatch.

As he told the story, Pires looked out at an audience not much older than he’d been when he first heard that advice. It was the second annual Youth Minority Engineering Night, co-hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Kauffman Scholars, Inc.

Dozens of high school students and their parents came to the Kauffman Conference Center to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) fields. They met with representatives from local companies, talked with UMKC SCE students about their experiences and heard from speakers like Pires and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. Parents participated in a college readiness workshop, led by the SCE’s recruitment and outreach coordinator.

Pires’ speech was just one part of the event, but its inspirational spirit touched every aspect of the evening, as local students were encouraged to follow a challenging but rewarding career path.

Citing job stability and high pay, Cleaver encouraged the high school students to pursue STEM careers.

“If you want to fit into the American dream, you’re moving in the right direction. This is it,” Cleaver said.



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