Torian Lay wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he arrived for his contract signing ceremony – while February had long started with statewide college commitments for prep athletes, March kicked off with a similar but very different type of event in Metairie.
Lay represented Hahnville High School as one of six local students selected as STEM Signing Day honorees. On that day, each student put pen to paper and signed a letter of intent to pursue a STEM degree at their chosen college or technical program, much like top high school athletes commit to a college on National Signing Day.
It was part of the STEM Fest co-hosted by the New Orleans Pelicans and Chevron at the Ochsner Sports Complex. Approximately 2,000 students participated in hands-on learning and interactive demonstrations focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The event included robotics, video game coding, virtual reality, live performances and Saints and Pelicans activities.
The event has been running since 2017 – this was Lay’s first experience with it. He will attend McNeese State in the spring after graduating from HHS and plans to study biology before medicine with aspirations of becoming a pediatrician in the future.
Lay was selected following his coursework as part of Project Lead the Way, which offered a program for undergraduates that encourages everyone to delve deeper into an area that interests them. Lay signed up for a course with a major in life sciences.
“We talked about forensics… we had to take on a case, determine how the person died, go through all the evidence, use a polygraph test, graphs, charts… anything to figure out what happened to them,” Lay said.
Lay said he was interested in the course. He had known for some time that he wanted to go into the medical field as a career one day, but wasn’t sure which field.
“It was a different side of something I’d like to do,” Lay said.
He was also committed – so much so that when it came time to choose a school representative for STEM Fest, he was a natural choice.
Arriving at the event, he realized there was more to learn.
“The speakers did a great job of illustrating how important science is not just in one field but everywhere, and how it can be applied to so many different fields,” said Lay. “(A Pelicans rep) told us how he uses the science every day … for example, if they’re playing the Houston Rockets, he can break it down to see that a player’s 3-point percentage at one point is up higher off the ground and forcing them off it… you kind of learn that deepening your engagement in any science can really expand the potential in what you do.”
These real-world applications spoke to Lay.
“You can just tell that there is an advantage in having a science background… just hearing how that can impact reputation in day-to-day life was really impressive,” he said. “And diverse knowledge can only expand your possibilities. As I said, I want to go into pediatrics, but forensics was also very interesting.”
For now, however, his heart remains with Plan A — during his high school journey, he realized his desire was to help others through medicine.
His work ethic and drive seem to push him to do just that.