Women in STEM Panel at Washington Middle School

In an exciting collision of inspiration and education, on January 9, 2024, an IGNITE Women in STEM Panel took place at Washington Middle School with 70 students in attendance. The Panelists, Morgan Bechtold, IT App Developer at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Ana Acevedo, R&D Engineer at Naked Prosthetics; Kirsten Johnston, FOH Audio Engineer/Sound Designer at Edge Rose Productions; and Whitney Golob Holm, Associate Principal at SCJ Alliance, arrived ready to share their insights.

The day provided students with an exploration into the lives of women thriving in STEM careers. The Panelists fielded a variety of questions, ranging from education and equity to dealing with stereotypes and personality dynamics in the workplace.

The event was full of open and honest discussions, with the Panelists sharing personal anecdotes, highlighting the hurdles they overcame to reach their current positions. From navigating male-dominated workspaces to advocating for themselves, the panel emphasized the importance of confidence and resilience.

The engaging format of the panel allowed students to pose questions about the necessity of certificates and other education in engineering jobs. The response focused on learning and following your passion. The Panelists advised against getting bogged down by the details of gaining an education, urging students to prioritize knowledge and genuine interest over formalities.

A standout moment of the discussion brought into question whether being a woman in STEM is a positive or negative experience. The resounding response was that being in the room and having a voice is how change happens. Overcoming challenges, advocating for oneself, and forcing people to listen were seen as empowering steps toward breaking barriers.

A heartfelt thank you to our incredible Volunteers who made our event a success! Morgan Bechtold, Ana Acevedo, Kirsten Johnston, and Whitney Golob Holm, for sharing your stories with the students. Special gratitude to Washington Middle School for 70 enthusiastic students participating. A huge shout-out to Educator Brian Morris for organizing the event and rallying so many students. Your contributions and commitment have left a lasting impact, and we are sincerely grateful for your support! Additionally, thank you to Mr. Morris’ Tech Arts Class for making an incredible LED IGNITE logo sign, laser-cut coasters with the logos of the Panelists’ companies, and for participating in the upcoming Ignite the Future Spring Gala by donating a custom LED logo sign for the auction!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

“Today’s event inspired me by acknowledging women who have pursued the careers and interests that I have too. These women of the IGNITE Program have also confirmed my desire and shown that it is alright to pursue careers similar to technical or engineering jobs. My big takeaways today are that women can pursue any role or career despite traditional stereotypes or prejudice. Thank you to the volunteers for educating us with your inspiring insight today as well.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Meeting women from different backgrounds and hearing their stories inspired me. Their stories inspired me by showing that they were able to follow their chosen career despite the challenges they faced. My big takeaway is that I can do whatever inspires me. Thank you, volunteers!” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“The event today, the members of the panel, and the message and stories they brought us greatly inspired me. Their encouragement that there does not need to be limitations on what career you choose or how you get there was one of the main things that inspired me. Today the main takeaway for me was that your gender or what school or college you go to does not prohibit you from doing what you want or love. You can decide what you want to do.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today showed me that my gender doesn’t matter in the job I want to pursue. I shouldn’t let others hold me back. If others don’t feel I can do something that’s their problem. I should do what I want.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event made me feel like I wasn’t in this alone. It showed me you should do what you like to and try different things for jobs.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I never knew girls were so open about working in these fields! Thank you!!” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

Today showed me that girls in STEM can succeed.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

The women inspired me to choose a STEM career I am interested in. It taught me not to be afraid to stand up for myself if I’m the only woman.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

This event helped me feel more inspired to do a job in STEM; I would like to do a STEM job that will help others. Thank you for being here!” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

Hearing about all of the empowering experiences was really eye-opening. There are many ways to reach your goals when it comes to STEM.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

I was inspired by these successful women, and it is nice to know that you don’t always have to have the best grades in school to later be successful. That women are just as capable as men in STEM careers. We don’t have to just let ignorant people undermine and disrespect you.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

I like doing STEM as a pastime but hearing other people talk about how much they enjoy their job inspires me to learn even more. That no matter how discouraged I feel with a project there are people that do this as a job, and if they do this every day so can I.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me by showing people I could relate to in jobs I may want to pursue. Seeing this was a boost of confidence. Some big takeaways are you don’t have to be 100% sure about your future and STEM is more interesting than I thought.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today cleared up questions about every part of working in STEM from day to day to working with people. it taught me to be nice and don’t be afraid to try new things.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today inspired me to pursue my STEM career in robotics and share my ideas with people all around the world. I loved the entire trip and the people that were here.” – 6th Grade IGNITE Student

This event really inspired me to go with the things I’m passionate about. I really love science and now I might choose something in that field. This event is really inspiring for girls and nonbinary students, Thank you for coming here.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to keep loving STEM and to pursue a career in math. Some big takeaways were the amount of women compared to men in this area. Also, the hard work people put in. Thank you! I loved this.” – 6th Grade IGNITE Student

“I’ve never really known what I wanted to do before, but I recently decided I was interested in architecture. I feel like this got me more inspired to be an architect. Women should consider STEM careers more. If you’re considering a STEM career, don’t get discouraged just because there aren’t that many women.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

This event showed how strong and brave all women are, strong enough to do anything. Thanks for showing us how you should always take what you want to do. Thank you for all the volunteers coming to talk to us.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me by helping me understand more about how STEM works and what it’s about. Also, it helped inspire me to maybe look into a career in something like STEM. It showed me that we can be and do anything if we put in the effort and work hard. The biggest takeaways from today were when they were talking about how they deal with people who aren’t the nicest and and how they learned to deal with them.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I feel inspired because I know that women can be successful in STEM careers. There should be more women in STEM careers. I know that if I want to pursue a career in STEM, I can. Women can do the same things as men.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

About IGNITE Program Panel Events:

Virtual or In-Person IGNITE Panels empower women in STEM careers to connect directly with students by sharing their academic and professional journeys. IGNITE Students are inspired by hearing stories they can relate to, and Q&A discussions help break down stereotypes that hold them back from engaging in STEM classes and careers.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at www.igniteworldwide.org.

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