"EngiNear YOU" Program exposes students to STEM field

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- The program, an educational series through Gainesville Regional Utilities, partnered with Jacobs Engineering Group to take students behind the scenes of wastewater treatment Tuesday.

Students from two North Central Florida middle schools, 25 from Queen of Peace Academy and 25 from Fort Clarke Middle, toured the Jacobs offices before going to GRU's Kanapaha Wastewater Reclamation Facility. Students were recommended for the program based on their performance in school.

"It's all a learning experience for them," said Pilar Doran, a Principal Project Manager at Jacobs. "It's one that we hope makes a difference in the future."

The goal of EngiNear YOU is to expose students to opportunities in the STEM field, like wastewater engineering.

"To come here, to actually be able to climb up there and see the water, see what happens in the process, look at the microorganisms, it's going to be able to create a deeper connection for these students that is going to be more long-lasting," said Carly Mikell, a Science Curriculum Specialist with Alachua County Schools.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe spoke to the students, along with engineers from both GRU and Jacobs.

"It's really so important at this point in their lives - when they're so young and they don't really know what they want to do or their interests - to expose them to things they have never thought of, like what does it take to treat waste," Doran said.

The tour finished Tuesday around 2:30 p.m. at Kanapaha.

"I just heard and read about stuff like that, and now it's really cool to see," said 6th-grader Luke Sauer. "I saw that happen."