Sep21

Written by:Jennifer Yepez
9/21/2012 8:35 AM 

Friday, September 21, 2012, 5:00am CDT
Dallas Business Journal by Bill Hethcock, Staff Writer

Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will launch a $10 million capital campaign to fund wide-ranging renovations at camps throughout the region.

The Rees-Jones Foundation has donated $1 million to kick off the campaign, and the goal is to raise the $10 million over three years, said Colleen Walker, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. The foundation’s contribution is the largest capital gift in the Girl Scouts chapter’s history, Walker said.

In addition, the Hoglund Foundation has contributed $300,000 that will be used to build the Girl Programming Center at Camp Whispering Cedars in south Dallas. The programming center, which will be named for the Hoglund family, will focus on incorporating "STEM" lessons — science, technology, engineering and math — into traditional scouting activities.

Camp Whispering Cedars will get a complete overhaul as it is converted into a "STEM Center of Excellence," Walker said. STEM is a major focus of the scouts as they work to encourage more girls to take classes and consider careers in those fields.

The idea is to teach STEM skills through activities such as archery or making apps, said Walker, a former engineer.

Archery, for instance, has always been popular at the camp. With the STEM focus, girls will still shoot bows and arrows, but they also will discuss aerodynamics, force and the science behind archery with mathematicians, physicists or other scientists, Walker said.

"We have to have more girls in the (STEM) pipeline," Walker said. "We can’t just hope and pray that (girls) are going to take algebra and then calculus and differential equations. We need to make sure that those subjects come to life in a really meaningful and robust way."

The master plan
The Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, which covers 32 counties, has developed a 10-year master plan to create four Centers of Excellence at their camps, Walker said.

The $1 million from the Rees-Jones Foundation will fund construction of a new entrance to the camp, a welcome center, a volunteer training center, an archery range and the Girl Programming Center, Walker said. It will have cutting-edge scientific and media equipment, she said.

"Girls learn best when they’re having fun, and they learn best when they’re hands-on," she said.

STEM is a major focus area for employers, with many saying they can’t get enough workers with these skills. TheBureau of Labor Statistics predicts a talent gap of 7 million skilled workers in the United States by 2016 ¬— jobs that American workers won’t be able to fill because they require STEM skills. The gap stands at about 3.5 million jobs now.

Dallas-based Texas Instruments Inc. sees the shortage of STEM-trained workers in the United States first-hand, said Trisha Cunningham, chief citizenship officer with TI.

"I applaud what the Girl Scouts are trying to do here," Cunningham said. "They’re trying to take an experience that girls have enjoyed for years — the outdoor camping experience — and show girls how math and science apply.

"That not only builds their confidence, but it shows them that they can actually do it, and that it’s fun, and that they would enjoy doing it as well."

STEM jobs have grown at a pace three times faster than non-STEM jobs over the past 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. STEM jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent over the next 10 years, compared with 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs.

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