SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Huntington High School students got a first-hand look at life in the fields of healthcare and medicine Tuesday as part of a program aimed at closing the equality gap in STEM careers, especially for women of color.

About 50 students spent the day on the LSU Health Shreveport campus through the “Bringing STEM to Life” program created through a partnership between the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences (CCDS) at LSU Health Shreveport and the American Heart Association (AHA).

The organizations say the program is designed to help steer more young people toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by giving them access to leading employers and experts who can provide insight into related fields.

“As the pandemic has shown, today’s economy and tomorrow’s wellbeing depend on innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” LSU Health Shreveport said in a joint release about the program. “Despite the increase in financial fields, a troubling gap still occurs, particularly in women of color, in the area of science. Of 100 female students working toward a bachelor’s degree, only three will work in a STEM job after graduation.  Even more troubling, by 2030, roughly half of the vacant STEM jobs will be in health care.”

Students like Sophomore Makoriyae Francis got the chance to work with some hands-on activities, including lab work and looking at cells through a microscope. Francis said STEM is not her first choice for a career path but found the experience interesting.

“My mom is in nursing school right now and she inspires me every day to be what I want to be, so I’m doing this for her.”

Still, LSU Health Shreveport and the American Heart Association are hoping the program will help inspire more young adults uncover their potential to find a path in STEM fields. Both organizations say they are committed to developing a “robust pipeline of innovators who will develop the research, technology, and innovations that will eliminate heart disease and ensure health equity in our communities.”