Youth Development

Helping Girls Succeed in STEM

Marian Middle School Students Celebrating Graduation

It takes a full community of friends, companies, and foundations to ensure youth are surrounded by the support they need, and the Bayer Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer, is proud to partner with schools like Marian Middle School in its transformative mission. 

Through an introduction to Marian Middle School many years ago by a Bayer colleague, I have had the privilege of partnering with Marian Middle School (St. Louis, MO). I currently serve as the incoming President of the Board of Directors at Marian Middle School. Marian is committed to breaking the high poverty rate that exists in St. Louis through an innovative curriculum and whole-student support that prepares underprivileged students to be workforce ready and highly employable in STEM-related fields.

At Marian Middle School, they seem to have found the magic formula to help young girls succeed. The 2023 Marian Magic Gala was held at the end of April, and several of my Bayer R&D colleagues had the opportunity to attend. They had a vested interest in the event since Marian alumna RoNiyah Harris recently completed her second year internship at Bayer, and following graduation, she continues to work at Bayer in the area of change management.


We have since hired our second Marian alumna, Alexandrina Weingart, as an intern this summer in St. Louis. Additionally, we partner with Marian on mentoring with members of our Business Resource Groups representing many diverse backgrounds in our organization. We are fortunate to have so many Bayer colleagues who believe in Marian’s mission and helping these girls succeed.


Marian Middle School Teachers and Students Pose for a Picture

I like the reference to ‘magic’ in the school’s Marian Magic Gala. Just like magic, the amazing presentation that you see comes from much hard work and preparation behind the scenes. When you hear a speaker at the Gala like Amber – a Marian student who has dreams of becoming an engineer – there are countless hours of work by Amber and support from Marian that have propelled her on this journey.

According to Mary Elizabeth Grimes, President of Marian Middle School, 90 percent of Marian students, on average, face challenges associated with poverty, such as food insecurity, homelessness, community violence, and substance abuse. On the other hand, 90 percent of Marian students hope to one day enter STEM-related fields – becoming pediatricians, OBGYNs, chemists, mathematicians, surgeons, nuclear medical carriers, architects, and engineers.

Through a program centered around “Educating Girls for Life,” that vision is becoming a reality. Mary Elizabeth recently told me, “This school year, 100 percent of our 8th graders graduated and are entering their top-choice high schools, and 100 percent of our alumnae graduated high school.”

STEM jobs benefit students from low-income communities

Since 2011, Marian has implemented a complete STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program with more than 10 courses that prepare girls to become workforce-ready critical thinkers and creative problem solvers with the skills to be highly employable in STEM-related careers. STEM jobs are some of the highest paying jobs in the community, and the benefits of higher wages and high demand careers are especially beneficial for students from low-income communities and communities of color, like those who attend Marian.

Marian’s support extends beyond academics, however. It implements a holistic approach that combines academics, enrichment opportunities, and wrap-around services like health screenings, counseling, and more. Once girls graduate Marian in 8th grade, they receive help entering high performing high schools - including financial support, scholarships, mentoring, and even backpacks, uniforms, books, and supplies.


The Graduate Support Program also includes assistance with college applications, ACT and SAT prep, college visits, and college selection. As many are the first in their families to attend college, students also receive continued mentoring, as well as connections to internships and careers. 


Middle school connects to lifelong success

The middle school age is a transformative time - mentally, academically, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually, Mary Elizabeth says. “Young girls at this age are developing important life skills, like grit, persistence, decision-making, and leadership skills. Studies show that the skills they build and the connections they make at this time are directly connected to their lifelong success. So, it’s critically important that we surround them with the support they need to pursue their dreams.”

The April 2023 Marian Magic Gala is an important contributor to the funding needed to support these dreams. In one evening, Marian was able to successfully fund an entire year’s worth of education for a full class of Marian Girls! It takes a full community of friends, companies, and foundations to ensure Marian girls are surrounded by the support they need, and Bayer Fund is proud to partner with Marian Middle School in its transformative mission. Investing in Marian is truly an investment in the community.

Shannon Hauf Headshot
By: Shannon Hauf
Senior Vice President, Head of Seed Production Innovation
4 min read