Program in the Valley offers real-life experience as a way to get more teens interested in STEM

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- A new survey shows teen girls are losing interest in STEM fields, but a nonprofit program is working on encouraging their interest.

It's not often you see school-aged kids with the title of mayor, CEO, or engineer, but that's what Junior Achievement BizTown offers. Kids get to compete and apply for jobs and fulfill their duties once a week, stepping outside of their usual classroom to real-life skills. In the program, kids work at a mockup city hall, tech shop, or whatever they want to pursue.

"I noticed there was a lot of paperwork and communicating. I realized, man. I want to do something that's hands-on and get involved," said Alexia Moreno, who is going to be a junior in high school, took part in the program as a child, where she developed an interest in the medical field and engineering. She has been thinking about her dream job as well.

"I've been thinking about this a lot," said Moreno. "I like putting things together and knowing how things work and so I thought, engineering, medical field, mix them together and you get bio-medical engineering."

The latest survey from JA showed only 9% of teen girls are interested in STEM careers overall.

"It's disappointing because we've seen over the years, as young kids, an equal number of girls and boys are interested in STEM, but by the time they are getting to high school, more of these kids are losing interest in STEM," said Katherine Cecala, the president of Junior Achievement of Arizona.

Leaders with JA talked about the core of the problem.

"There are studies that are showing that it's really the social aspect and lack of access, that they don't really understand STEM careers," said Cecala.

Leaders have a plan to address the issue.

"We are providing these young people, with opportunities to see these jobs in action, talk to mentors who are in these fields," said Cecala. "When they see that, they can see themselves in those careers."

JA serves about 80,000 students across the state, offering STEM-emphasized programs for elementary, middle and high school students. They partner with different schools to get the students involved in their programs, and they say it's important to expose these students to a wide variety of career options, and to give them the skills to pursue their dreams.