Laura Kaeppeler - Miss America 2012
Miss America 2012
Laura Kaeppeler has been traveling the country on behalf of the Miss America Organization, focusing on promoting education for young women and her personal platform: mentoring children of incarcerated parents.
Much of Laura’s time is spent encouraging young women to pursue studies in STEM subjects in an effort to bridge the gender gap among an already pressing issue.
Laura’s passion for mentoring began in high school when her father served 18 months in prison for a white collar crime. Inspired by her experience, Laura remains and advocate for children of incarcerated parents.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
To begin, we should be looking for ways to engage all children in STEM. This means teachers AND parents working to find every day ways to engage kids in new explorations. We need to inspire interest and instill confidence in young girls and young women who show an interest in STEM and support girls-only programs and forums. At a young age, we need to celebrate pioneers and trailblazers from Mae Jemison and Ursula Burns to Jane Goodall and Stephanie Kwolek. But we should also rely on pop culture – from movie scripts and storylines to toys (Legos for girls and Barbie as a computer scientist) to role models like Miss America advocating for STEM.
What is your concept of mentoring and sponsorship of others for STEM careers?
The opportunity to travel the country as Miss America provides me with a voice and access to so many Americans, young and old and a platform to address today’s pressing issues. Mentoring is about inspiration and guidance and I believe the message can’t just be about “stay in school” anymore but rather “what do you love to learn and how can we learn new things together?” Our hope is to open the eyes and minds of young girls about STEM subjects and how they too can help shape our countries future. That’s inspiring for any age.
What about STEM gives you passion?
As I look at the statics and see that 49% of female students say that they chose a STEM profession to help make a difference in our world, I become even more passionate about promoting this type of education. Every day I meet children from all walks of life throughout my travels and they share amazing stories about their hopes and dreams. If we can channel those dreams into applied sciences and formal education and an application of their personal interests then we can foster them into reality rather than simply smiling with pride.
How is Miss America innovating to promote STEM?
Miss America is known and loved for helping to fulfill the dreams of our nation’s young women. Last year, the Miss America Organization made available more than $45 million in scholarships to help turn those dreams into reality. I've watched lives change because of the scholarships from our pageant program. We are now expanding our mission to encourage more girls and young women to pursue their dreams of a higher education and to attain the goals that will take them into their future. As Miss America 2012, I have been touring the country to encourage all young women to pursue a college education, and focus on driving interest in the arts, as well as science, technology, engineering and math; promoting STEM education. Our efforts support the national momentum to focus on female students who are currently underrepresented in STEM professions. Were already at the forefront of women’s scholastic achievement and now were being even more targeted at our approach.