Gulfport’s iCan! Girls in Engineering event a family affair

Gulfport’s iCan! Girls in Engineering event a family affair


The iCan! Girls in Engineering event recently held at Gulfport High School showcased potential careers for 25 female sophomores, and two of them have relatives working at Mississippi Power.

As always, the exercises featured company employees and co-op students speaking and interacting with female students to spark interest in the field of engineering.

The day’s activities represent more than just a passing interest for sophomore students like Lexi Killebrew. Her stepfather is company Marketing Analyst Mark David Howard, and her grandmother is company Senior Accounting Analyst Kim Necaise.

“I also have a relative who works at Georgia Power, so I’m very familiar with the utility industry,” Killebrew said. “None of them tried to get me to come to this. I told them I wanted to go. I’m a total math person, but I’m also interested in chemistry. Who knew that making lip gloss was part of chemical engineering?”

Making lip gloss, racing mechanical cars, making high-heeled shoes and working on a circuit board are all part of the iCan! Girls in Engineering experience. Groups of students maneuver between stations and are introduced to all aspects of the career field.

For Emile Chenault, daughter of Business and Industry Services Manager Arlan Chenault, a day learning and working with engineering principles feels right at home.

“This is awesome,” she said. “One day I’d like to become a biomedical engineer. I love the way we get to integrate everyday things into engineering.”

In between activities, current members of the Mississippi Power family spoke with students and gave them some practical career and life advice.

“Lay out your goals and figure out what you need to do to achieve those goals,” said Dena Kopszywa, Human Resources business consultant. “Be careful on social media. The decisions you make today could have consequences tomorrow.”

The group also heard from Stacey Miles, who was a chemical engineering major in college and was a co-op with Mississippi Power. Now, she’s the company’s major accounts manager.

“When I was younger, I used to enjoy taking things apart like those old landline telephones,” Miles said. “That’s where I became interested in engineering. Now I’m in marketing, but knowing the engineering side of our business is a big plus in what I do every day. It helps to be well-rounded. Future employers want to know if you can produce in the real world. Engineering can be tough, but don’t ever give up. The sky’s the limit.”

One instructor who also sees no limit in what these students can achieve is Sandy Commer-East, Gulfport High’s career pathways specialist. She says having the iCan! Girls in Engineering event on campus is a major driver in getting students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.

“It’s huge to have this event for our sophomores,” Commer-East said. “At this level, they’re about to decide what specific courses they want to take when they’re juniors and seniors. This is opening up a whole new world to them. We’re thankful that Mississippi Power brought the program here.”

So is current Mississippi Power co-op student Penelope Dao. The Tupelo native and Mississippi State attendee said she observes the need for more female engineering students every time she goes to class.

“There’s definitely more males in my classes than females,” Dao said. “I’m not much older than these students, and this program really opens my mind to new possibilities. It gives me hope for the future.”

Watch WLOX coverage of the event here.

The next iCan! Girls in Engineering event is scheduled for March 8 in Sumrall.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 187,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeast Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at and, like us on Facebook, and follow us on TwitterLinkedInGoogle+ and YouTube.