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Monument Kentucky Volunteers Inspire Tomorrow’s Innovators through “You Be The Chemist” Program
July 17th, 2019
Monument employees already know that chemistry plays an important part of every aspect of our world, from the clean water we drink, to the materials that build our homes, to the latest innovations in markets like electronics and healthcare. And we at Monument play a role in these innovations in a wide range of industries.
As stewards in the world of chemistry, we have another critical role to play: influencing the next generation of innovators in our industry – beginning with the students who live in the communities in which we operate.
Learning about chemistry is a great way for kids to use scientific methods and deductive reasoning skills – which is often under-emphasized in schools today. Promoting an early interest in science helps nurture careers in STEM fields – making sure our industry has the innovators it needs for the future.
Through both corporate giving and volunteering, Monument supports many activities that inspire students through chemistry and science. One such program is “You Be The Chemist,” the flagship program of the Chemical Educational Foundation® (CEF). The Brandenburg site team actually introduced “You Be The Chemist” to the Meade County school district over 12 years ago thanks to engineer Barry Stewart (who retired in 2017), and Monument has continued this inspiring partnership for the past decade.
This year’s Meade County school system “You Be The Chemist” Local Challenge took place on February 20, 2019 in the Performing Arts Center at Meade County High School. Judging was performed by Monument Brandenburg employees: Rachel Flaherty, Lauren Hamilton, and Mike Purvis.
“CEF provides a study guide for students in grades 6 and 7 – and then the kids learn the content outside of school on their own,” said Rachel, who recently left Monument, but has helped organize the event and Monument’s participation for the past few years. “Then, the kids are tested – the results of which identify our competitors for the Local Challenge.”
And this is where the real fun begins – not only for the kids, but also for the judges!
“The competition is entertaining, and we love seeing the students’ excitement when they get the answers correct,” said Rachel. “Some of the questions come straight from the study guide, but other questions require the kids to apply deductive reasoning. As judges, we find this inspiring, because the students aren’t necessarily learning these skills in school – and some of the questions are even challenging for the judges!”
Rachel points out that the best part of Monument’s involvement is when the students come to the Brandenburg site for a tour.
“Most of the kids have driven by the site – or know someone who works here – but until they visit, they don’t really understand what we do,” said Rachel. “The questions they ask are incredibly smart. When we explain how our chemistry ends up in their everyday lives, you can actually see the doors of possibility opening in their head for what they may want to do when they grow up.”
The Monument judges wish a big congratulations to the eight Meade County students who competed in the State Competition, where Rachel again served as a judge: Tyler Borden, Colin Butler, Dakota Cook, Emma Goins, James Johnson, Tre Sadler, Paul Slack, and Emilee Staubs. The National Competition (where Monument is the Silver sponsor) took place in Washington DC on June 17, and a student from Trigg County represented Kentucky.
“We love hearing the students say things like ‘I didn’t know chemistry could be fun!’” said Allie. “We’re also teaching them that science and chemistry is just an extension of their everyday world – and therefore, there are career possibilities everywhere. I’m still relatively early in my career, so I definitely remember the people who inspired me; it’s wonderful to be able to pay that forward – for both the students and the industry.”
The top eight Meade County “You Be The Chemist” students who participated in the State Challenge: (left to right) James Johnson, Emilee Staubs, Dakota Cook, Emma Goins, Paul Slack, Colin Butler, Tyler Borden, and Tre Sadler