The 17th annual Girls in the Middle Program brought middle school girls to an exciting day March 7 at Otero Junior College.

The 17th annual Girls in the Middle Program brought middle school girls to an exciting day March 7 at Otero Junior College. The program exposes girls to a variety of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, provides positive female role models, encourages enrolling in math and science classes in school, and introduces girls to STEM-focused peers. Participating girls came from schools all over the lower Arkansas Valley, including Las Animas Middle School sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. Over 200 girls in 6th through 8th grade registered, an increase of 56 over 2014.

When they arrived at the Student Center Saturday morning, they were placed in 20 groups of 11 girls each. Every group was given T-shirts of a particular color to distinguish them throughout the day. They met each other and the two leaders for each group: one student from Otero Junior College and a female cadet from the Air Force Academy. There were team-building games and activities for each group, a keynote speech by Channel 13 meteorologist Rachael Plath, and 20 workshops presented by women in STEM careers from biotechnology to veterinary science. Some of the presenters were local, such as Dr. Candace Adler (physical therapy) and Hannah Muth (EMT), while others came from farther away, from such organizations as Colorado School of Mines, the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Surface Mining, Adams State University and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Everyone was treated to a continental breakfast at the Student Center and lunch at the Koshare Kiva.

Mistresses of Ceremony were OJC students and co-captains of the OJC volleyball team Patricia Young Yen and Student Body President Taylor Whitehead. The “Sunny With Every Chance of Success” mural in the Student Center Banquet Room was designed by Girls in the Middle alumna Ariana Dufour and completed by Sallie Hibbs, Sign Shop owner Talor Stokes, OJC art students and art faculty member Stephen Kalaher. Volunteering for the 2015 Girls in the Middle program were 20 OJC coeds and 20 Air Force Academy Cadets who served as group leaders, and 20 women from the community serving on the Girls in the Middle Committee. Organizer Nancy Mitchell said that this year’s event was the best one yet.