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Girls engineering program gets a big boost

Springfield Public Schools have an after-school program called "GEMS," Girls Engineering in Middle School. It's part of the district's career technical education, and a program that's caught the attention of the community.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - A Springfield teacher received a surprise donation on Tuesday, helping to continue a program that helps both students and the community.

Springfield Public Schools have an after-school program called "GEMS," Girls Engineering in Middle School. It's part of the district's career technical education, and a program that's caught the attention of the community.

During sixth period "Machine Technology" at Thurston High School, teacher Polly Kohl has no idea that a $5,000 check is on its way.

The Springfield Chamber of Commerce presented the $5,000 check as part of their Work Ready Initiative.

It's money from local employers that, through the Chamber of Commerce, helps cultivate local, qualified talen from the classroom to the real world.

In addition to her hands-on high school classes, Kohl runs the GEMS program.

"We started it to allow girls to become familiar with the shop and things like robotics, and engineering type things," said Kohl.

After several years, they almost didn't have enough money to keep going, now they do.

Kohl knows it's money well spent. She's an engineer herself, and wants to teach girls that they have that same opportunity.

"Giving background to girls, getting them excited about something women haven't traditionally been in, we can increase the number of women in those programs," said Kohl.

Chamber President Vonnie Mikkelsen says that kind of skilled, educated workforce is huge for our community and economy.

"We want to build that local pool of talent so that our local employers can go first to the kids that are coming out of our schools," said Mikkelsen.

GEMS is open to all middle school girls in the district, and there's generally one program in the fall term and one in the spring term. Each session lasts five weeks for 10 classes.

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