Actor Kal Penn urges Banneker students to pursue STEM careers

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Jack Siesko. This version has been corrected.

It was a busy day for Benjamin Banneker Middle School students Wednesday.

More than 100 of the Montgomery County students visited the White House to hear some of President Obama’s policy advisers speak. Then in the afternoon, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Discovery Communications President David Zaslav and actor Kal Penn visited their school.

It was all in the name of science — or STEM — science, technology, engineering and math, to be exact. The Burtonsville students were part of an event aimed at encouraging kids to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Banneker student Jack Siesko, 13, said the best part of the day was getting a preview of “Connect the Dots,” an education initiative designed to encourage kids to pursue STEM careers.

Discovery Communications announced the launch of the nationwide program on Wednesday. Connect the Dots includes after-school and summer STEM camps, a new television show and other multimedia work that prepares kids “for the jobs of the future and inspire the next great discovery,” according to a media release from the Silver Spring-based company.

Penn is the host of the Discovery Channel’s new show “The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius,” which also is part of the initiative to get students excited about STEM fields.

“It seems like a pretty cool program,” said Jack, who wants to be an electrical engineer or design video games. “It broadens kids horizons involving what STEM is.”

Faith Kim, 14, said visiting the White House and seeing Penn speak at her school was a “really good experience and a great time.”

Kim, who is considering studying biology in college, said she liked learning from administrators speaking at the White House event.

“They told us we should pick a career that interests us and STEM would be helpful because many careers would be connected to STEM.”

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.

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