By Kelsey Lineburg, Baton Rouge Senior AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School. 

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to serve at Kenilworth Science and Technology School (KST).  Working at a school with a STEM-focused curriculum has allowed me to tap into my engineering background and share my love for science and mathematics with the students I serve.  Every year, KST hosts an annual LA STEM Expo for hundreds of elementary and middle school students in Baton Rouge to attend to learn and get excited about science. Without a doubt, this is my favorite event each year, and I was more than excited for the school to reach out to my City Year team for us to help support the students in preparing for this fun and interactive event.

This year, the LA STEM Expo was held on Monday, May 7th at the new engineering building on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU). Over 75 students from Kenilworth were selected to demonstrate interactive science exhibits at the event.  It was our role, as City Year AmeriCorps members, to ensure that they were confident and prepared to speak about their project to over 800 visiting students, parents, teachers, and community stakeholders.  We spent three entire school days working with our students to prepare them for Expo. I had the opportunity to work with twelve 8th grade students on their presentations.  Their projects ranged from fire-proof balloons and sound tubes to Wimshurst Machines and blind spots!  Each project was unique, interactive, and required in-depth knowledge and understanding of the scientific phenomenon and principles taking place. The first day of practice was a little rough for each student; however, by day three, the students were confident and prepared to take their project to LSU.

On the morning of the LA STEM Expo, our students arrived at KST around 7:15 AM to eat breakfast and load the buses to head to LSU.  Once we arrived at LSU, it was time to set up, practice, and shake out any last-minute nerves!  My team and I met with each of our students when we arrived at LSU to ensure that they had everything they needed for their demonstrations.  Once 11 o’clock hit, it was show time!   Over 815 people attended the event, and our students had the opportunity to share their projects with community members ranging in age from the young to the young at heart.  Judging for the event took place from 11 AM – 12:30 PM and the LA STEM Expo panel of judges included community members such as the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, Joey Strickland, and even our very own new City Year Baton Rouge Executive Director, Jada Lewis!  Once judging ended, participating students convened in the assembly hall for an awards ceremony.  We were so proud to see some of the students we worked with go on stage to receive trophies!

This event is hands-down my favorite program that Kenilworth hosts and this year did not disappoint!  This event embodies the City Year value of “Students First, Collaboration Always”.  It is extremely inspiring to see our 6th-8th graders get excited about sharing their knowledge, projects, and personality with others, and I want to shout-out ALL of the incredible students, teachers, community members, and (of course) my team for working together to make this event a success!

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