When Divine Savior Holy Angels High School began its STEM Scholars program in the fall of 2020, it had 23 students.
The program has proved so popular it has grown to 97 students in just three years.
Specialized Studies Department Chair Connie Farrow explained that before the program, students at the all-girls school on the northwest side of Milwaukee were demonstrating a strong interest in STEM subjects, so they developed a robust curriculum and crafted something for inside and outside of the classroom.
“We are so happy the STEM Scholars program has grown so much, and it has been demonstrated that because our students attend an all-girls high school, they are six times more likely to go into a STEM field and three times more for engineering,” said Farrow, now in her 11th year at DSHA. “If we look at our recent class of 2023, 61 percent of them are majoring in a STEM field.”
The program is designed for students curious about and willing to be highly engaged in learning and applying science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
STEM education is a teaching approach that combines the four disciplines, but rather than teaching them as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. The DSHA program is designed for a specific purpose: to integrate and apply knowledge of math and science to create technologies and solutions for real-world problems, using an engineering design approach.
The requirements for the STEM Scholar program include four years of science and math, along with other STEM-specific coursework.
Students also attend a STEM-related career day, participate in a STEM-related co-curricular — such as robotics, SMART Team, theater crew or HOSA future health professionals — and participate in STEM-related research.
“All our girls go on to college and all reported scholarships. Our girls received $23 million in scholarship offerings across many schools,” said Farrow. “One study shows that a lot of girls in traditional high schools drop out of the STEM program not because they can’t do it, but because they feel like they don’t belong. We help them develop perseverance — and do that with support and encouragement — and develop an atmosphere to let them know they do belong.”
DHSA senior Katie Sohn has participated in the STEM Scholars program for three years because she has a passion for science and mathematics.
“I wanted to understand how to apply this knowledge to my future education and career,” Sohn said. “Through STEM Scholars, I have been presented with real-life situations where I can apply analytical and problem-solving techniques to advance my communication and collaborative skills. This program has allowed me to understand the numerous opportunities there are in STEM-related careers to fulfill my ongoing interest in math and science.”
Having the STEM Scholars background is a great foundation for a career in medicine, though Sohn is undecided whether she will become a doctor or nurse.
“Whatever path I ultimately choose, I am positive that this program will give me the skills to be successful and help those in need,” said Sohn, 17, a member of St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield.
The opportunity to foster creative thinking and problem-solving is one of the major benefits of the program, said Sohn. While she admits some of the concepts are difficult to grasp in a STEM curriculum, she explained DSHA has eager teachers and mentors who understand the importance of persistence and see making mistakes as a learning opportunity, not failure.
According to DSHA President Katherine Konieczny, the graduates who have come back feel confident in their college studies.
“They said they feel capable in their classes and attribute it to the confidence they built during their years here,” Konieczny said. “In their college classroom, they feel they have the same voice as the boys. We are very happy to hear that.”
Sohn agreed and explained that the investment of time into the program would help her grow in her passion for STEM and future studies.
“I do not see any drawback and encourage anyone with interest in STEM, problem-solving or working in teams to join,” she said.
Divine Savior Holy Angels
4257 N. 100th St., Milwaukee
President: Katherine Konieczny
Principal: Dan Quesnell
Admissions: Meaghan Lagore (414-721-2909)
Open House: Oct. 22, 9 a.m. to noon