Teacher Bridget Shaskan (left) and student Aimen Shah (right) enjoyed learning about career opportunities at PepsiCo.

PepsiCo hosted a full day of workshops and hands-on activities for just over 50 Little Elm High School students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program on Oct. 21. The visit was one of several opportunities AVID students have had in the program. 

Students spent their day at the company’s Plano location learning how science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills could help set them on a fulfilling career path, said Little Elm ISD communications coordinator Cecelia Jones, who also spent the day with the students. 

“The PepsiCo visit was the first of its kind,” Jones said. “You don’t realize how STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can be applied. It was mind-boggling to see all the types of careers PepsiCo incorporates into the company.” 

In addition to the trip to PepsiCo, LEHS AVID freshman Aimen Shah said her class has taken a tour of TCU, a virtual tour of Stanford University and volunteered with Texas Women’s Univeristy for “Tailgate University,” an event that educated and advised students in their college application processes. 

Although she considers herself more creative and visual than a math or science person, Shah said PepsiCo shed light on all the opportunities offered with a STEM career through fun and stimulating activities. 

“One of the many activities included a collaborative sensor workshop,” Jones wrote in the LEISD newsletter. “Groups of students were given different sensor elements like pressure, light, sound, motion and a source of power that would bring the sensors to life.” 

LEHS AVID teacher Bridget Shaskan, also in attendance, said the students worked well in a competitive atmosphere. The people guiding the students all seemed like recent college graduates, which made them more relatable and fun. 

The employees also told various stories about how they ended up in their current careers, Shah said. Most people had no idea what they wanted to do in college, which she said assured her that her future holds endless possibilities. 

As a daughter of a mother who attended medical school and a father who has a passion for all things technology, Shah said it was inevitable that she would go to college, which is why she joined AVID. 

AVID teaches the Cornell note-taking method, a system typically taught at universities designed to help students thoroughly retain information through organized notes. Cornell claims on its website that it is a more efficient way of note taking.

“Without AVID, I wouldn’t have as good of notes,” Shah said. “My teacher last year took a before-and-after picture of my notes at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year. ‘This is improvement,’ she told me. It was a huge transformation. 

“It also created more of a comfort zone for me. I’ve talked with people I never thought I would get along with. I’ve learned that you can make a family-type aspect anywhere.” 

The AVID program helps students of all backgrounds develop skills needed in college, LEHS assistant principal Chris Reza said. Students learn how to assume more responsibility and be independent in order to prepare them for college and future careers. 

Younger students also experienced some of the benefits the high school students received. PepsiCo visited the eighth-grade student class at Lakeside Middle School last Friday to introduce them to STEM careers. 

Lacoya Bagley, English department head and girls athletics coach at Lakeside, said PepsiCo employees came to tell their success stories and educate students about how college can prepare them for STEM careers. 

“The kids enjoyed learning about STEM,” Bagley said. “They were told about all the sciences and maths they would need to take in high school to prepare for college. There was also a Q&A session for them to ask whatever questions they had. They learned a lot from them.” 

For the future, Jones said LEISD hopes to continue their partnership with PepsiCo and provide more hands-on opportunities for all AVID students in the school district.

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