WV GEAR UP Hosts Virtual Career Academy

Kaci FosterProgram updates

Over 500 Students Across West Virginia Participate in Stem-Focused Event

CHARLESTON, W.VA. — WV GEAR UP hosted a Virtual Career Academy on March 18, 2021 to help students learn about career paths and plan for their futures. Over 500 seniors participated in this exciting event, which had a STEM focus. The keynote speaker was Emily Calandrelli. Calandrelli, a native of Morgantown, WV, received her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University. She is an MIT-engineer turned Emmy-nominated science TV host. She is the Host and Co-Executive Producer of Emily’s Wonder Lab on Netflix, is featured as a correspondent on Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves the World, and an author of the science chapter book series, the Ada Lace Adventures.

Calandrelli is a first-generation STEM graduate and Promise Scholarship recipient. In her message to students, she emphasized that fear should never get in the way of their goals. She added, “You may have a little bit of fear. You might feel like you are not skilled enough or good enough, but those are the moments you should be the proudest of. If you don’t let fear get in the way of your goals, you can accomplish things you never thought were possible and your future self will thank you.”

Calandrelli applied to programs that her peers never would apply to and used it to reach higher goals. She encouraged students to, “Always bet on yourself. Don’t count yourself out before someone else does it.”

Presenters for the Virtual Career Academy included Harshal Chchaya and Deacon Stone. Harshal Chchaya is the lead Systems Engineer and Product Manager for Texas Instrument’s STEM product line. Deacon Stone is the STEM Education and Maker Programs Coordinator at the Robert C. Byrd Institute.

A Burst Session was also held during the event. One of the panelists was Kristyn Johnson-May, an alumnus of the WV GEAR UP program. May graduated from Mingo Central High School in 2014. She completed undergraduate programs for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University and is currently a Mechanical Engineering doctoral candidate conducting research under an appointment at US Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Other panelists were Dr. Matt Oliver and Nicolas Pachis.

Johnson-May, a West Virginia native, chose to attend college in-state because it was the best financial decision for her at the time and she wanted to remain in the state. She said, “Some people like to leave their home state to attend college, but this was the best choice for me. I did the math and realized that if I studied in West Virginia, I could graduate without any student debt. I looked a the cost of tuition and food. Financially, it was the best decision that I could make.”

Johnson-May gave the following advice to students, “Take college as an opportunity to find something worthwhile. When you are in high school, you have big decisions to make. However, the decisions that you make in college are more than just for four or five years. You need to look at a career that can get you excited. You don’t want to choose a bland profession. You should decide on something that keeps you interested. During college, take the time to explore and find a job that you love. You deserve a career that you are excited about and there are plenty of STEM careers that need students to fill them.” Sponsors for the event were Green Valley Animal Hospital and Texas Instruments. WV GEAR UP students were eligible to receive more than $1,000 in prizes. A video of the 2021 Virtual Career Academy can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvc7TU2eCxE.