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Fourth annual STEMmy Awards celebrate best of STEM

On Wednesday, May 22, STEM RTP (formerly STEM in the Park) hosted its fourth annual STEMmy Awards, an annual celebration of students, educators, companies, organizations, schools, and partners who have done outstanding work in STEM over the past year. With eight Golden Gears to give out this year, over 100 people came out to show their support for the 2019 winners and STEM outreach, including several major RTP-based organizations.

Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), the STEMmy Awards’ premier sponsor, RTI International, Biogen, Lord, Cisco, Fidelity Investments, Burroughs Welcome Fund, and IBM all attended, as well as BASF, winner of STEM Industry Partner of the Year. Tim Humphrey, VP of the Chief Data Office at IBM, gave an incredibly moving speech about the future of STEM outreach, inspiring everyone in the room to “make STEM sexy,” and saying that STEM should be “the Beyonce of career choices.”

A lovely children’s string quartet from the KidzNotes program performed during happy hour as guests began trickling in and heading for the hors d’oeuvres and drinks, passing the STEM RTP information booth on their way and getting a sneak peak at the grand rebranding announcement that Director Sarah Windsor would make at the beginning of the ceremony. Following this announcement was a special introduction to the new STEM RTP Program Manager, ReShockie Furnace, and a few words from Research Triangle Foundation CEO, Scott Levitan. 

A phenomenal dinner was served as the audience applauded the winners onto the stage to accept their awards, each saying a few words of thanks to the crowd. One winner in particular, Angelitha Daniel, director of minority engineering programs at NC State University, shed a very crucial light on the importance of STEM outreach. As Angie came onto the stage to accept her title as 2019 STEM Educator of the year, she fought back tears and thanked her late STEM mentor, Dr. Lewis, accrediting him for helping her get to where she is today, for inspiring her to continue his work, and inspiring the next generation of minority STEM professionals.

Other STEMmy Awards went to Lorenzo Shaikewitz of Jordan High School for being the STEM Student of the Year, Reedy Creek Middle School for STEM School of the Year, Marbles Kids Museum for STEM Community Serving organization of the year, Kenan Fellowship Program for Teacher Leadership as the STEM Higher Education Partner of the Year, and the Museum of Natural Science’s Triangle SciTech Expo the STEM Event of the Year. Jared Siirila, winner of STEM Volunteer of the Year, was quite possibly the luckiest person in the room, having left the event with not only his Golden Gear, but two of the silent auction prizes as well.

STEM RTP offered three prize packages as part of their silent auction: A Day in Durham Package, Hurricanes Package, and Durham Bulls Package. While each silent auction prize found its way to a very happy attendee, other guests filled out pledge cards to support STEM RTP in its mission to create a community where every student has the chance to pursue a career in STEM.

As the STEMmy awards came to a close, guests went to claim their photos from the red carpet shoot and say their final goodbyes. The fourth annual STEMmy Awards event was a fantastic success, and I’m thrilled to see what we have to look forward to at the fifth.

Ivana Vazquez

Ivana is an AmeriCorps VISTA member who loves working with art institutions, charity organizations and nonprofits. When she’s not working with local nonprofit STEM RTP, she’s at various art events and fundraisers all around North Carolina, encouraging free expression and creativity with her passion project, Ghost Flowers Art Promotion.