Girls Shouldn’t Feel Weird for Loving Science and MathDecember 23, 2013
During this season of giving, we’re sharing stories about how AAUW’s programs affect real women and girls all over the country. The following story originally appeared in the 2013 AAUW annual report.
“Tech Trek was the first time I didn’t have male classmates looking down on me or making me feel weird for loving science and math,” says Ellen Thuy Le, a recent chemical engineering graduate from Stanford University. Le attended Tech Trek, a science camp for girls created by AAUW of California, when she was 12 and credits it with sending her on a lifelong journey in the sciences and with being involved in AAUW.
“Tech Trek was a really transformative experience. It was this amazing environment where I felt supported and empowered to be the best that I could be,” says Le, who went on to be a Tech Trek counselor and to serve on the AAUW National Student Advisory Council, a yearlong leadership development program.
Success stories like Le’s are common across the country thanks to AAUW-hosted science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. While AAUW of California has been growing Tech Trek since 1998, members of the AAUW Farmers Branch-Carrollton (TX) Branch have held a workshop for the past 23 years that encourages girls to pursue STEM careers and introduces them to female role models. For 22 years, the AAUW Woodbridge (VA) Branch has put on a conference to introduce girls to STEM professionals through hands-on workshops. And for 24 years, AAUW of Ohio has hosted a summer camp to develop middle school girls’ confidence and excitement about STEM.
But these are just a few of the innovative projects that volunteers are bringing to their communities. In 2013, AAUW — working with states and branches — started building on the successes of these programs by expanding them nationwide. The first national pilot program was Tech Trek.
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For more than 15 years, AAUW of California has run the highly successful, weeklong camp, which develops girls’ excitement and self-confidence in STEM. Surveys from Tech Trek attendees demonstrate the camp’s effectiveness: Alumnae, like Le, complete a higher number of science and math courses in high school and attend college at higher rates than the national average.
In summer 2013, AAUW Tech Trek camps took place at four pilot sites in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington; in 2014, the national pilot camps will expand to Alabama, New Mexico, and Oregon as well. Also in 2014, Tech Savvy, a daylong conference for girls that was launched eight years ago, will grow from its Buffalo, New York, roots to become a national pilot program at 10 sites to serve more than 2,000 girls around the country.
“Our members are enthusiastic about growing this programming, and we’re thrilled to be able to support them,” says Ana Kay Yaghoubian, STEM manager at AAUW. “Volunteers are giving resources to communities that really need them to bring more girls and women into STEM.”
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