A life-long learner: Perham sixth-grader invited to exclusive STEM camp

Perham's Daisy Carlson, 11, was selected to attend an invite-only STEM camp for the summer of 2022.

Daisy Carlson and Abby Dralle sit together as they talk about Carlson's time at Pathways to STEM.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — The talent of Perham students is exhibited continuously every day of every year. When Perham School District's Teresa Anderson was a fourth-grade distance-learning teacher during the 2020-21 school year, she knew that her student, now-11-year-old Daisy Carlson, was filled with talent and potential.

"She's an independent, life-long learner — motivated, always pursuing knowledge," Anderson said of her former student.

Seeing Carlson's intelligence and motivation, Anderson nominated her for the invite-only National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) Pathways to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program , a six-day camp that teaches elementary-aged kids about robots, medical training and crime investigation.

"Daisy is a student who thinks outside the box," Anderson said reflecting on why the camp was a good fit for Carlson. "Besides being amazing at math and reading and science, she is a student who cares about her classmates, is easy-going and compassionate and super patient. She has a nice balance of all those characteristics."

Carlson received a letter in late summer 2021, telling her she'd been chosen to attend. After some consideration, Carlson and her mother, Abby Dralle, decided that the Pathways to STEM program would be good for her to pursue.


"I was really excited and proud," Carlson said remembering when she was nominated and invited to attend. "It was fun."

Daisy Carlson smiles while she's at NYLF Pathways to STEM, enjoying her time there.
Contributed / Colleen Kroenke

In late July 2022, Dralle drove Carlson all the way to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to attend Pathways to STEM. This was the first time Carlson would be away from home for several days, and while that was nerve-racking for Dralle, it was also exciting for them both. For five nights, Carlson slept in the dorms with other campers — some all the way from Florida — learning about different STEM subjects all day long.

During her time there, she learned how to put a splint on someone's arm, dissect a cow's heart, build and program a robot and more. She and her roommate even taught their robot to play soccer through the programming they learned.

Carlson's love for sports strongly influenced her time at the camp. She loves playing and watching basketball and participating in gymnastics. While she was learning about the medicine side of STEM, she realized that instead of watching athletes, she could also help them.

"Not only do you get to enjoy it, but you can make a career out of it," Dralle said, explaining her daughter's interest.

Carlson liked incorporating education into her love for sports so much that she wants to return to a specific NYLF camp next year. They offer individual camps geared exclusively toward different STEM subjects, such as a medicine camp, a law camp or even an engineering camp.

"I like the medicine and programming," Carlson said when asked what she'd like to do next year.

Daisy Carlson spends time with one of her fellow campers at NYLF Pathways to STEM.
Contributed / Colleen Kroenke

When Dralle picked Carlson up after six days of camp, they talked about all the different things Carlson learned and loved.


While she is now back in Perham, she got to bring her new robot home — built and programmed by her — and a love for STEM along with her. She enjoyed learning with other kids her age with similar interests as her, and she described the camp as a very fun time.

For more information on NYLF, go to .

"Hearing from (Carlson's) family how much she loved it, I thought, 'Yes, this was perfect for her,'" Anderson said. "It's exactly how I imagined it would be, that she would love it, and it would be a good fit.

"As I said, she's an independent life-long learner. She's self-motivated and is always pursuing knowledge on her own … I'm just excited she got the opportunity."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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