Wednesday, May 29, 2024

NSU STEM Center hosts outreach for rural youth, has plans for kid and adult programming

by BIZ Magazine

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s Region 6 LaSTEM Network Center partnered with Regions 3 and 8 to host the first RECIPE for Rural STEM Day, a collaborative GUMBO (Geographically United for Making Better Opportunities) on March 9.  LSU-Alexandria allowed the Region LaSTEM Centers to host the event at the Alexandria Mega Shelter with more than 655 fifth grade students from Grant, Concordia, LaSalle, Lincoln, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes in attendance.  

“The way we introduce students to STEM in cities like Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and New Orleans is very different when it comes to our rural communities,” said Jennifer DePriest, director of Region 6 LaSTEM Center, CenlaSTEM. “The Directors of the nine LaSTEM Centers were asked to choose a statewide initiative.  RECIPE for Rural STEM is mine. I believe STEM should be Relevant, Educational, Career Minded, Impactful, Purposeful and Engaging. What better way to do this in Louisiana, then by creating a collaborative GUMBO?  Having events like this will allow us to truly be Geographically United for Making Better Opportunities.” 

Participating organizations represented business and industry, healthcare and education that included 4-H, the Alexandria Zoo, Cabrini Hospital, Central Louisiana Advanced Healthcare Education Center (AHEC), Central Louisiana Technical Community College Cloud Computing, Crest Industries, David Sproles Electronic Workshops, Holy Savior Menard Robotics, KALB, KidWind, KLAX, Learning Blade, Louisiana Delta Community College, Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, LSU-A, M&M Sound, Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum, Northern Louisiana Medical Center, Rapides General, Rapides Parish Library, USDA Forest Service and RoyOMartin, who provided decorations. 

NSU was represented by the School of Biological and Physical Sciences, Educators Rising, College of Nursing and the Department of Engineering Technology.  

“Students had the opportunity to explore STEM in fun and engaging way. This incredible event would not have been possible without the support of these amazing organizations,” DePriest said.  

DePriest said she received positive feedback from teachers and participants. 

“They loved it!! Some even said it was the best field trip they had ever been on. They just wished it was longer.” 

DePriest is organizing upcoming events for kids and adults to familiarize them with STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) concepts that integrate problem solving, creativity and critical analysis. 

This Saturday, March 25, Youth Challenge Program – Girls STEM will launch at Camp Beauregard with the goal of eventually launching the program at facilities at Gillis W. Long and Minden. 

Coming up on April 15 she has teamed up with meteorologists Tom Konvicka and Nick Mikulas to present a Grownup STEM Day at the Region 6 STEM Center for “A Morning with Meteorologists” that will focus on tornadoes.  That program will be from 9 a.m.-noon.  DePriest said that hosting programs for adults increases the pool of volunteers with knowledge to help with programming for children and youth.   

The new Region 6 STEM Center in Alexandria is hosted by Northwestern State at 1410 Neel Kearby Blvd. in Alexandria. The STEM Center’s focus is to provide regional opportunities for PK-16 faculty and students and STEM partners to engage in activities that promote STEM culture and literacy, experiential learning and prepare a STEM workforce for the future. 

“Northwestern is proud to host the Region 6 STEM Center established by the LaSTEM Advisory Council.  The goal of the Region 6 STEM Center is to build strong foundations for STEM literacy while increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM,” Laurie Morrow, NSU’s Executive Director for Economic Development, Innovation, and Outreach.  

Information on CenlaSTEM is available at

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