THE BLOG
11/12/2013 02:15 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Teachers and School Leaders Make It Real

Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

Walk into Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, and you will see the brightest in our country building toys their freshman year that will be judged by fourth-graders at a nearby elementary school. You will see entire classrooms of machinery for students to build their inventions and bring innovations to the entrance door of the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office. They will own the IP. The school will take nothing, just push them toward bold dreams, and Microsoft will come in and hire 20 percent or more of their graduates.

Walk into an inner-city high school in NY, DC, SF, Chicago, Miami and more and you will see kids with third-grade math levels dare to dream showcasing their new businesses and presenting their annual income statements (ahem... all math!)

"The iPhone case I made with my school logo cost of goods sold (COGS) is $2.25 for materials, plus $4.00 for my labor, and I am selling them for $12.00. My gross profit is $5.75, and I sell on average 20 per game. My website will launch next month at www...." Their teacher will be certified and trained with entrepreneurship-in-a-box tools by Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). If they do not have NFTE at their school, they might find this powerhouse online and be part of the World Series of Innovation competitions.

Walk into tech company New Signature in downtown Washington, DC and you will see sparkling young people without college degrees doing advanced IT work while earning college credit from Northern Virginia Community College through the amazing YearUp New Signature will offer full time jobs to many of these young people as great assets in our workforce following their six-month fellowship and training. New Signature CEO and staff will champion YearUp to any corporation who aspires to hire great talent and build a more diverse workforce.

I had the honor of hearing YearUp's national CEO Gerald Chertavian speak compellingly last Tuesday at the CloseIT Conference put on by Innovate+Educate on closing the Opportunity Divide. I went running out to buy his new book. Okay, I actually sat on a chair at the Capital Hilton lobby and bought it on amazon between speakers, but you get my point.

I wrote about SkillsUSA after attending their national competitions and am such a huge fan -- over 350,000 youth, over 90 percent high school graduation rates. Local, regional, national competitions in 160 categories. The U.S. Army is there in full force annually to recruit these bright minds, an asset to National Security. The conference is filled also with corporations smart enough to get in the door early and meet the best and brightest of our country. These kids all come out of high school with a TANGIBLE SKILL and are ready to work impressive attitude.

THE COMMON DENOMINATOR = RELEVANCY.

It's so basic. When you make it real, applicable to real life, you touch the hearts and minds of America's youth and young workforce. Make it hands on, and show young people the correlation to real life and they will learn way more and advance academically.

Want more girls engaged in STEM,... position your course beyond math and science, but a place that they can do an experiment, build an app, build a robot, create a cure or a movement to change the world. Project based and applied learning.

Yesterday I met with the dynamic past STEM Principal from McKinley Technical High School, David Pinder and he shared an amazing story. One of his students was almost "removed" from school twice; he came from the toughest Ward in DC with the highest poverty and well over 20 percent unemployment. He came to the school below basic math and science. This young man, Golden R., had the golden touch. He was inspired by hands on classes through Project Lead the Way for engineering, Robotics, and a CSI curriculum developed by Carnegie for Biotech.

"He was the first kid in the school to get a five in both AP Physics and AP Chemistry test. He was doing math and science without even realizing it," said his Principal David Pinder who is now the head of the DC Region for New Leaders for New Schools training a new generation of Principals.

"He was doing math without even realizing it," and the results were off the charts. His mind, expanded forever.

There is a saying that a good teacher can effect eternity. A teacher can, does, and so can industry stepping in helping out and people taking the time for skills-based mentoring and internships. We, as a country, can bring back manufacturing and innovation, increase girls in STEM, teach kids to be economically self-sufficient and ready for work after high school or college. We just need to make it real to ignite the minds and learning of our kids.