Stepping Up To STEM

Left to right: Leah Lugovina, Chairperson of Guidance and Student Services; Tubah Farooq; Anna Velez, Walt Whitman Guidance Counselor; Saba Ilyas; and Risa Stein, Assistant Director for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) at Farmingdale State College.
Left to right: Leah Lugovina, Chairperson of Guidance and Student Services; Tubah Farooq; Anna Velez, Walt Whitman Guidance Counselor; Saba Ilyas; and Risa Stein, Assistant Director for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) at Farmingdale State College.
Saba Ilyas and Tubah Farooq are just two of the many wonderful examples of Walt Whitman students who show that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.
Saba Ilyas and Tubah Farooq are just two of the many wonderful examples of Walt Whitman students who show that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.

Risa Stein, the assistant director for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) at Farmingdale State College, is excited for South Huntington students.  STEP is a New York State Educational Department (NYSED)-funded program that was started in the late 1980s to offer academic programs, enrichment activities, and support services aimed at enhancing the skills and competencies necessary for students in grades 7 through 12 for entry into college-level programs in science, engineering, technology, health sciences, and licensed professions.

“We partnered with South Huntington schools about a year and a half ago, and South Huntington is tremendously involved with Farmingdale and its STEM initiatives,” said Ms. Stein.  STEP activities at Farmingdale include the following: Saturday Academy in Science and Technology; after-school programs in mathematics, science, and English; school projects in science and technology for regional and statewide competitions; special tutoring in mathematics, science and English enrichment activities; summer programs in science and technology; prep classes for SAT and PSAT; college visits; field trips to industry; guided research/internship; LI STEP consortium activities; programs for STEP parents; mentoring by STEP students; and participation in the Farmingdale Conference on Science and Technology, as well as attendance at the statewide STEP Conference.

Two students at Walt Whitman who have been very involved in STEP at Farmingdale State College are seniors Saba Ilyas and Tubah Farooq. Saba left Pakistan 6 years ago and entered Stimson Middle School in the seventh grade, where she met Tubah, and the two became good friends instantly. Having such a good friend who came to the United States from Pakistan around the same time was comforting for both girls. They spoke little English and were understandably nervous in their new environment. But as they worked hard to learn English, they branched out and made friends, and they grew comfortable with life in their new country. “We’re very close, but we have also made many friends. It’s not easy at first, but it’s very important to make friends,” said Saba.

“My teachers have been so amazing, because they have been not only helpful, but also demanding, and because of this I worked extra hard to learn English and to succeed in my studies,” said Saba. “At first I didn’t believe I could take the courses I did because of my limited English skills, but my teachers challenged me to work hard and persevere. I stayed up late every night to learn the language, and I went to extra help after school every day.” Saba is interested in studying science, math, chemistry, and biology in college. 

 “Saba is one of the hardest-working students I have ever come across in my years in education,” said Ms. Stein. “She worked so hard at both her studies and her command of the English language. She also focused on her testing weaknesses and worked very hard to get those scores up as well.” Saba’s involvement in the STEP program through the Walt Whitman Guidance Department and Farmingdale State College was crucial to her success.

Tubah has also been a part of STEP program for about a year and a half. “She has worked so hard to further her skills and get into college,” said Ms. Stein. “STEM can challenge even the smartest of students, so having a strong work ethic is critical if you’re going to succeed with a post-education STEM focus.” 

“My teachers told me that I have so much potential, and that they believed in me, and that helped push me to work hard,” said Tubah. “I would say to new students who have just come to America, to work very hard to learn the language and to do well in your studies. It may seem hard at first, but if you never give up, it will get easier.” Tubah is interested in pursuing biology in college and may want to become a biology teacher.

“Tubah and Saba are such hard working students that there is no question in my mind that they are going to succeed,” added Ms. Stein. “They are going to excel in whatever they set their minds to do because they are willing to put in the hard work to succeed.”

Congratulations to Saba and Tubah on their acceptance into college, and to all of the inspiring teachers and guidance counselors who showed these young students that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.