Franklin County School seventh grader Mary Barfield was among outstanding middle school students from across the nation to take part in a unique academic development experience this summer, the National Youth Leadership Forum: Explore STEM.

The forum’s mission is to inspire scholars to explore career possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“STEM fields are the fastest growing areas of study, and STEM professionals are in high demand in the United States and throughout the world,” said Jan A. Sikorsky, Ph.D., vice-president of education for NYLF Explore STEM. “These students, who have already proven themselves academically, are challenged to apply math and science skills as they work on real-world, student created projects to bring their studies to life.”

Barfield was selected along with seven other students nominated by their teachers to participate in this leadership forum. Mary chose to attend the program hosted by Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

“ While I attended this program, I got a glimpse into different career fields relating to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The instructors presented very engaging educational activities for us to choose from, and even though I didn’t get the STEM of my choice it was still very enjoyable,” said Barfield, daughter of Charles and Freida Barfield and granddaughter of Mrs. Shirley Barfield, all of Eastpoint.

“I was in the medical group where we learned how to bandage different injuries quickly. They also let us try other STEM classes like robotics, app design, and 3-D Design,” she said. “I also loved the sheer diversity of every student there. They were all very welcoming. This was an awesome opportunity!”

Students who attended the program participated in a broad range of interactive simulations, hands-on workshops, and educational site visits to discover the work of today’s professionals in fields such as engineering, health care and environmental science. Scholars of the program also learned to develop critical success skills such as time management, conflict resolution, information analysis, collaboration, and public speaking.