OUR PEOPLE: “Hidden Figures” Film Screening and Panel Discussion Inspires our Female Students to Pursue Careers in STEM

OUR PEOPLE: “Hidden Figures” Film Screening and Panel Discussion Inspires our Female Students to Pursue Careers in STEM

Bulkeley High School Principal Gayle Allen-Greene, and Hartford Public Schools Director of STEM Education, Dr. Sandra Inga were both wowed by the award-winning major motion picture, Hidden Figures, based upon a true account of African-American women working for NASA’s space program almost 60 years ago.  In sharing their experiences of the film, understanding its power to educate and inspire our young female scholars in Hartford, the duo decided they must collaborate on a screening of the film for our young female students, and more, that it should be supported by a discussion panel of successful, local women thriving in STEM careers, pictured above.

The two women’s plans came to fruition on February 10th, 2017, when Bow Tie Cinemas in Hartford hosted a special screening of the film for a large group of young women from Bulkeley High School, Global Communications Academy, and High School, Inc.  The film was kicked off by Acting Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres Rodriguez, (click here to see quick video,) followed by a discussion panel moderated by Dr. Inga, the STEM Director for Hartford (CT) Public Schools and a former semiconductor engineer with Texas Instruments and Digital Equipment Corporation/Hewlett-Packard, and Tara N. Spain, vice president and chief operating officer of the Travelers Foundation and second vice president for community relations at Travelers Insurance.

Bulkeley High School students at the screening and discussion.

Principal Allen-Greene and Dr. Inga brought together a panel who spoke at length with the students, describing their paths, their experiences, their work, and answering many questions.  The panel included:

Vanessa Cruz, a mathematics teacher at Bulkeley High School since 2006 and a graduate of Hartford Public High School. She received her BS in Mathematics, M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction, and Intermediate Administrator Certificate from the University of Connecticut.

Melissa Strother, a Sr. Actuarial Consultant for Travelers Insurance whose primary responsibility is to calculate reserves for Small Business Units with the Auto line of business.  Melissa has over 20 years working in various actuarial roles within the insurance industry, and holds a M.S. degree in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science from the University of Connecticut and a B.S. degree in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science from the University of Massachusetts.

Kendra Letang, a Senior Actuarial Analyst in the Actuarial and Analytics Leadership Development Program (AALDP) at Travelers Insurance, who earned her BBA in Insurance with a concentration in Actuarial Science from Howard University located in Washington, DC and is currently completing actuarial exams to obtain Fellowship in the Casualty Actuarial Society.

Carla Gunn, a partner of Manchester OB-GYN, who earned her undergraduate degree from Hampton University in Virginia and graduated from UConn School of Medicine then finished her residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center in 2010.

Shakira Aida-Ramos, the Deputy Regional Fleet Manager in Pratt & Whitney’s Engines Services for Commercial Engines & Aftermarket department, and a graduate of Ms. Porter’s School who received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Trinity College and a M.S. in Business Administration from the University of Hartford.

And, Anjanette Ferris, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at The Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, also the former Director of the Lipid Clinic and past Co-Director of The Women’s Heart Health Program at The Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, who completed both her residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Cardiovascular Diseases at Columbia University Medical Center, and earned a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University.

Global Communications Academy students with the movie poster.

We extend our gratitude to the panelists; the students were visibly and audibly inspired by their generosity.  The experience was invaluable. The students learned about the breadth of fields available to them and, that their dreams of STEM careers can be within their reach.

High School, Inc. students after the event.

Please read more about this event, courtesy of the Hartford Courant.