Inaugural class of STEM Scholars honored at graduation

On July 10, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14) hosted a dual Women in STEM panel discussion and STEM Scholars graduation ceremony featuring keynote Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and women STEM professionals from the Chicago area.

Held at FONA International in Geneva, the event celebrated the inaugural class of STEM Scholars, a 14th Congressional District youth leadership program encouraging high school students to become ambassadors in their communities for the possibilities provided by science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"The energy, excitement and leadership abilities of our high school STEM Scholars were on full display at FONA International, a great bookend as the location of our first meeting at the beginning of the school year," Rep. Hultgren said.

"Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti's keynote and inspiring discussion from women in STEM careers capped off a fun and celebratory evening," Hultgren continued. "Following our many meetings and visits to local businesses, educational institutions, national labs and more, it is clear these students are destined for great things in STEM, and I look ahead to see where their education and careers take them. In addition, as a husband, a father and a brother, it's important to me that the other women in my life see the opportunities available. Hearing firsthand from STEM professionals who are innovating and leading in their fields helps encourage people pursue their dreams - boys, girls and Members of Congress alike! Now it's time for the next class of STEM Scholars to join their ranks - so apply now."

During her address, Sanguinetti shared life lessons and advice with students, noting that the future of the state of Illinois depends on young people developing their skills to think critically in a variety of a ways and in a variety of industries.

"Right now, it's a big deal to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math," Lt. Governor Sanguinetti said. "It's quickly becoming the most in demand area of the 21st century, and in today's globalized and competitive world, STEM education is crucial for our nation's economy and workforce development."

"A few years ago, I had nothing to do with the STEM community," said Claire Garretson, STEM Scholar class speaker. "Through participation in FIRST Robotics and in the Hultgren STEM Scholars program, my exposure and understanding of STEM has grown exponentially."

"This program has been more than just a monthly meeting at an interesting place - it's been an adventure," said Faith Twardzik, STEM Scholar class speaker. "We are the hobbits and the dwarf, and it's safe to say that Congressman Hultgren is the Gandalf of the group."

After the graduation ceremony, Rep. Hultgren co-moderated a panel to discuss women in the STEM workforce with Annie Hubbard, a sophomore studying aerospace engineering at University of Alabama. He met Hubbard in St. Louis over a year ago during the FIRST Robotics World Championships.

The all-female panel discussed how they got inspired to engage in STEM careers, what a typical work day looks like, how these jobs will change over the next five years, how important mentorships are for growth and more. The answers included personal stories of obstacles overcome and opportunities taken, as well as how men and women can both support women in an ever-changing field.

"Things are changing … women [and] millennials have to join," said Aneesa Muthana, president and owner of Pioneer Service Inc. and board member of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. "The culture that we have at my company is beyond just women, it's beyond just making parts. It's a family."

"The culture is to do what is best," said Diane D. Homan, vice president of clinical innovation at Rush Copley Medical Center and assistant professor of family medicine at Rush University Medical College. "You will be more successful if you work in a team."

Additional panelists included Rose of Sharon DeVos of Pioneer Service Inc., Arlene Hawks of SciTech Museum and Hannah Rueger of FONA International.

This past school year, Rep. Hultgren and the STEM Scholars worked alongside food flavoring professionals measuring chocolate syrup to see how it mixed and tasted differently with different types of milk, saw firsthand the partnership a local business has with NASA's Space Launch System which could carry our astronauts to Mars, engaged in hands-on learning with flight simulators, observed the ways in which companies like Caterpillar, Rolls-Royce and Microsoft are collaborating together with dozens of universities in a regional hub in downtown Chicago, and talked to STEM professionals about their careers at a local science museum.

Rep. Hultgren is now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 #STEMScholars class at

Rep. Hultgren, member of the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology and co-chairman of the STEM Education Caucus, co-sponsored and supported House passage of the INSPIRE Women Act which aims to encourage women and girls to consider careers in math, science and aerospace. The bill became law Feb. 28, 2017.

The inaugural class of STEM Scholars meets with women STEM professionals during the graduation event. Courtesy of Office of U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, left, hosts a panel on "Women in STEM" as part of the graduation event for the first class of STEM Scholars. Courtesy of Office of U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren
Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti delivers keynote address for the first STEM Scholars graduation event. Courtesy of Office of U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren
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