Leah Beene, a junior from Wewahitchka High School, is the recipient of this year’s Sunshine State Scholar Program’s award for Gulf County.
One student from each school district is selected by that district for the award, which is presented to the state’s top 11th graders in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.
To be considered for the award, students must have junior class standing, be on track to qualify for the Florida Academic Scholars Award, have a weighted GPA of 3.9 or higher and have demonstrated interest in pursuing STEM-related postsecondary studies in Florida.
Beene hopes to pursue a career in mechanical or civil engineering so she can go on to work with the United States Air Force.
“I’ve also always thought it would be so cool to be a young woman working in STEM,” she said at the most recent Gulf District Schools School Board meeting. “… My academic passion is and always has been anything related to math. I’ve always been such a numbers person, and it’s been something that comes easily to me. Anyone who knows me knows that if I’m in a situation, I’m going to try to solve it using numbers, even if the topic is not directly related to numbers.”
Beene said she is especially passionate about challenging the stereotypes and hardships faced by women working in STEM fields.
“I think the greatest challenge America has in the areas of STEM right now is the well-known problems of stereotypes of women and the way women planning to or currently working in STEM-related fields are treated,” she said.
“My ideas for helping to solve this issues in STEM would be to enforce the discrimination laws that are already put in place for women in STEM, while also encouraging women to work in STEM-related fields and showing them what it’s really about, that it’s not masculine or a man’s job.”
Each scholar, along with their parents, will travel to Orlando in early April for a program designed to bring together scholars from around the state, connect them with employers that specialize in the STEM fields and create a networking opportunity between the scholars and schools from Florida’s College and State University System.