East Mecklenburg High School freshman Kayla Burriss will be among the students from across the nation who will participate in the White House Science Fair on Feb. 7. Burriss, who wants to be an environmental engineer so that she “can make a difference in the world,” is part of her school’s new Academy of Engineering, a small school-within-a-school learning community that equips high school students with the science and math skills to study engineering in college. East Mecklenburg’s Academy of Engineering is one of nearly a dozen career academies in high schools throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system, which were created by the nonprofit National Academy Foundation (NAF). Students such as Burriss exemplify the “extraordinary accomplishments made possible when students are exposed to high-quality, engaging and hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities,” said Linda Rosen, CEO of CTEq, a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM learning in the United States. Seed funding for the East Mecklenburg Academy of Engineering was made possible by the AT&T Foundation, with additional support provided by other CTEq-member companies Xerox, Verizon, and Motorola. Burriss’ mother, Michelle Paige, who is accompanying her daughter said, “I have definitely seen a change in Kayla. She talks about her engineering course and has begun to change her goals and is looking toward the future. Kayla has increased confidence and excitement about what she can do, and when she completes her goals she will be the first one in her family to graduate from college.” One of the goals for East Mecklenburg’s Academy of Engineering is to increase the number of minority and female engineers, a shared goal of the CTEq membership said Rosen. “A deliberate effort among the CTEq coalition is to bring more high-quality STEM learning opportunities to minorities and female students, both of whom are underrepresented in STEM professions.” President Obama plans to deliver remarks during the Science Fair to an audience of students, science educators and business leaders on the importance of STEM education to the country’s economic future. The Feb. 7 event will be live streamed from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. (ET) on whitehouse.gov/live. Coverage will also be available on Twitter (#WHScienceFair, and @whitehouseostp and @whitehouse).