As a new intern at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), I recently experienced inspiration: the apex of CWEALF’s hard work. This past Friday, October 11, 2013, we held a Girls and STEM Expo at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, CT. Being inexperienced in the Expo process, it was my first time planning an event that would reach so many people, particularly those at a young, impressionable age.
Without having attended, no less orchestrated, any of CWEALF’s Expos in the past, it sometimes seemed like I was organizing blindly. Anyone can relate to a situation where you don’t know exactly what to expect, but I must admit that it was a little bit daunting thinking that 130 teachers and seventh graders would be judging my hard work and planning!
My CWEALF supervisors assured me that everything would pay off on Expo day, but I didn’t truly understand what they meant until I was actually immersed in “it”. “It” is a very difficult experience to describe, though of course I am referring to the Expo. All of the planning seemed so logical and concrete, but when the girls arrived the Expo took on a life entirely of its own and became so much more than just the Expo itself. The intricate details of preparation that had seemed so important, such as deciding which font to use for the cover of a career packet, were no longer so significant. Instead, the excitement that the girls conveyed toward the STEM activities was the only thing that seemed to matter.
It is amazing to see the kind of energy and wonder that is still present in middle school. As an adult, I think that so often we view the world with such objectivity that we forget what it means to really invest ourselves in a moment—the moment of trying something new. As I walked through the different workshops, I couldn’t help but become excited too! Learning how to weld, or manipulate a machine, or form an efficient assembly line, were all memorable experiences that I never had in middle school. By watching the girls, it was as if I was engaging in these skill building activities, activities that I now feel that I truly missed out on as a youth.
In all honesty, the stipulations that many girls have about going into different areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics were present with me throughout college, and most definitely affected the selection of my degree program. To have the capability of inspiring girls to take opportunities that I never knew were available for me is a pretty remarkable experience.
Although I am new to the realm of CWEALF Expos, I can already see the importance of addressing potential STEM careers with middle school girls. It is obvious, as you watch the students feed off of each other’s enthusiasm, that they are still at a very impressionable age. As they endeavor into the sciences more “seriously,” and at a time when they are making the transition from diorama projects to textbook assignments, it takes memorable experiences like the Expos to ignite an interest and motivation that will carry the girls through the necessary, and sometimes arduous, education for STEM careers.
Reflecting on this Expo, and in anticipation of the many more in the spring, I now understand the real importance of CWEALF’s work with the Generating Girls’ Opportunities (G2O) Initiative. Because of this rewarding experience, I now feel a stronger drive to continuously improve upon the STEM Expo day so we can reach even more girls. And after all of this, ultimately seeing the buzz of students excited about STEM and wanting to tell others about their memorable day: that is the inspiration.
Written by Danielle Simoneau. Danielle is a graduate of Rhode Island College and is the G2O intern at CWEALF.