Ms. LaTaijah is the new STEM Specialist at Girls Inc. She was also a member of Girls Inc. and knows that her experience as a member shapes her approach to working with the girls now:
“I am currently a junior in college studying mechanical engineering. I started attending Girls Inc. when I was four. Or five. Let’s say five. I participated in Eureka! and that definitely had an impact on my area of study. In Eureka!, I was exposed to STEM concepts in general and also to the concept of exploration. Exploration of simple mechanics and machines. To the physics of mechanics. Eureka! gave me the experience of being on a college campus. It helped expose me to the concept of transitioning to college life. The Eureka! exploration supported my further STEM involvement at North High School.
Eureka! also helped me understand the importance of STEM but it also exposed me to taking care of myself in general. Through Eureka!, I was able to gain valuable hands on experience. I was at a career fair recently and the people looking at my resume were like, ‘Wow! You have a lot of experience.’ And I do. I am several steps ahead of many of my peers and having all of that experience at such a young age means I am ready to push through to an interview. I am ready to step right through that door. Having all of that experience helps distinguish me from other applicants.
Eureka! helped me develop public speaking skills, speaking at all of the celebrations and Girls Inc. events. That is an important life skill for the field I am going into.
Having been a Girls Inc. member, I think it makes it easier for me to remember what I wanted and what I was interested in as a member, but also to hear the voices of the girls. That impacts curriculum choices that I make. I ask myself, “How can I make their experience even better than mine was?” Eureka! has a limited number of girls accepted into each cohort and I think all of the girls should have the experience of exploring STEM. I want to bring those STEM opportunities into the centers. I want to be that middle person between the girls and STEM. A conduit. Does that make sense? I want young girls – girls ages five, six, seven, and eight – to have those STEM experiences so when they get to Eureka! they can build on those experiences.
I want to provide an introduction and some choice. Robotics, media, music, videography. Even art. Using an iPad, there is an app that will digitalize girls’ art and tone it up. Give it a graphic design look.
When I was at Girls Inc., I also had a mentor. Evelyn. She helped me explore the non-STEM side of myself. The other side. Artsy, adventurous, and – honestly – communicating about my feelings. She helped me learn how to choose. When I was with her, I had a choice.
I want to provide the girls with choices. Not just during programming, but even during homeroom. They may want to do something more than sit on the bleachers. They may want the choice to explore. I can help make that happen.”