By DANIELLE ABRIL
DANIELLE ABRIL The Dallas Morning News
Published: 16 July 2012 10:30 PM
A science, technology, engineering and math program sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas has taken residence at UT-Dallas this week, and 72 high school girls are reaping the benefits.
"I want to be a food scientist when I grow up, so this will be very interesting," said Scout Cameron Wicks, 15, on Monday. "This is a great opportunity."
For the first time in 12 years, the Girl Scouts is hosting its annual College Journey program at the University of Texas at Dallas. The program aims to give girls a taste of college life and has been held at several area campuses. The group chose UTD this year to further its focus on STEM.
"We wanted to make it a key priority to really reach these girls and show them what the future could be," said Kimilee Gould, STEM program manager for the Girl Scouts.
Iolani Connolly, assistant director of the Science and Engineering Education Center at UTD, was grateful to be the link between the new STEM-focused program and the college campus. She was once a program director for the Girl Scouts.
"We want to inspire more young people to pursue an education and career in science, technology and math," said Connolly. "So this was a perfect match."
The girls arrived on campus Sunday and will be living at a residence hall until Friday. Throughout the week, they will participate in a range of activities that include building robots and meeting with female professionals. The program culminates with a field trip to Frito-Lay, where the girls will learn how the principles of STEM are used to make potato chips.
During the program, Scouts will also learn about college life as they experience it firsthand and interact with college students.
"Getting to ignite this interest in such a diverse population is such an empowering thing," said Ashli Lawson, 23, a lifetime Girl Scout and pre-med student at UT Southwestern. "Hopefully I can be an inspiration."
UTD gathered 30 people, including business professionals and faculty and students, to serve as teachers or mentors in the eight sessions and workshops, as well as the meet-and-greet-style professional dinner. Texas Instruments and Fluor Corp. sent 10 representatives.
TI and Fluor also donated a combined $22,000 to the program, which helped the Scouts provide scholarships for more than 60 percent of the girls.
Fewer than 25 percent of women are employed in science, technology, engineering and math industries even though women make up almost half of the nation’s workforce, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Looking for change
Programs by the local Girl Scouts are aimed at changing these statistics, which have remained relatively unchanged over the last decade. Last year, the local STEM initiative ramped up as the organization developed its engineering badge sponsored by Texas Instruments.
The girls who will spend a week of their summer break learning about STEM fields and college life said they expect to gain valuable insight.
"I think it’s worth it," said Scout Ania Villegas, who wants to be a biomedical engineer.
"This will give me a better understanding of what the engineering field is."