Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., an African-American sorority founded amid segregation and educational injustice, has joined a unique program spearheaded by the Girl Scouts of the United States of America to provide a new approach to getting middle and high school female students more interested in STEM-related coursework and possible careers.
Fields and industry related to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — have long been staffed by mostly white males, and officials with the Girl Scouts’ “Imagine Engineering” initiative believe participation in this program will help turn that tide.
“Girl Scouting and Sigma Gamma Rho have the same goal: to build the nation’s future leaders by helping girls dream big and accomplish much today,” said GSUSA Chief Executive Officer Anna Maria Chavez. “We are delighted to be part of this partnership to help girls do great things in critical fields such as science, technology, engineering and math.”
To raise awareness about the initiative, the Girl Scouts has released a series of guides specifically geared to the ethnicity of the young lady that may be interested in STEM-related fields, such as specially-created guides for African-American, Hispanic and Native American female students.
As part of the program, the Girl Scouts have crafted an encompassing website, http://www.girlscouts.org/imagineengineering, which breaks down the seven major engineering disciplines — aeronautical, biomedical, civil, electrical/computer, environmental, industrial and mechanical/design — and provides a breakdown of each specific discipline while giving advice how to approach the industry.
The guide also shows the starting salaries for entry-level STEM positions, and also provides related examples of women who have made inroads into the STEM community.
For example, the African-American guide contains an interview with Vicki Gambrell, a mechanical engineer with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, while the Hispanic guide includes a Q&A with Elizabeth Cercado and Michelle M. Font, both mechanical engineers with Boing. In both instances, the accomplished women talked not only of the drive necessary to succeed in a male-dominated field, but of the particularities and nuances of their position as well. Overall, these interviews provide an inspiring message, such as the story relayed by Font in the Hispanic guide, who spoke of ignoring cultural and sexist barriers to become the engineer that she is today.
“I wouldn’t say I have had many cultural barriers. If there were, I did not pay any attention to them. I am a very optimistic person who does not let things bring me down or get in my way. One minor issue does come to mind — I was an intern, and I lived at home. In my house, family, and culture, living at home is something that women do until they are married. In my early years at the company prior to graduating, people would constantly tell me that it’s not right for a 20-something-year-old to live at home,” Font said. “They would try to put me down and would succeed at making me feel uncomfortable, but I never let it affect me. I simply educated them and explained to them why I do what I do. I was brought up with good morals and values, and respecting my parents is one of those. I respect their rules and love living in a house of traditional values.
“Sometimes the best way to overcome discrimination is by education,” Font continued. “More often than not, the offender just isn’t educated about the subject enough to make a kind comment.”
The guides and website also offer tips on what parents can do to help their daughter cultivate her STEM interests, and also included vital steps the student should take in middle school, high school and college to prepare for a career in a related field.
Sigma Gamma Rho’s emphasis is on scholarship, sisterhood and service, and the sorority addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically, and economically, according to its mission statement.
To that end, its involvement in the “Imagine Engineering” initiative could be considered all but a given.
“Response to Imagine Engineering has been terrific,” said Sigma Gamma Rho National President Bonita Herring through a statement released by the Girl Scouts. “We surveyed 250 girls who took part in the program, and more than two thirds of them said they now understood how ‘someone like me’ could become an engineer.
“We will not only expand our efforts with this program, but we will reach out to girls nationwide in our communities with a combination of our own healthy living program, Project Reassurance, and the Girl Scouts’ program for middle-school girls on healthy relationships and bullying,” Herring continued. “Through this continued partnership, we are going to do great things together for girls.”
Recent months have been busy for the Northwest Philadelphia chapter of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Last week, the group brought items they no longer needed for a special flea market. The event was held at the Allens Lane Arts Center located at 601 W. Allens Lane in West Mount Airy last Saturday.
The flea market was one of the many activities for the local chapter. The initiative was their project for the Girl Scouts’ “Forever Green Initiative” throughout the month of May. During April they participated in an expo and attended a Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast. They will also participate in the National Trails Day in Valley Forge Park on Saturday, June 2.
“We are looking for Girl Scouts of all ages (from 5 to 95) to pick a section of the Appalachian Trail to hike in honor of our 100th anniversary,” said Jennifer P. Fister of the Girl Scouts. “Our hiking journey starts Monday, March 12 and ends Wednesday, Oct. 31. Our event’s honorary chair is Mary ‘Mama Boots’ Sanders. (She) inspired this celebratory hike.
“As a Girl Scout leader in Kentucky she began hiking and backpacking the Appalachian Trail in the early 1970s. Over the course of nearly 20 years, accompanied by groups of Girl Scout girls and adults, she eventually hiked the entire 2000-plus miles of the trail in bits and pieces or section-hiking,” Fister added.
Local girls will be able to meet Sanders during the month of July. This will be the Great Girl Scout Hike “Mid-Summer Mid-Trail Meet” t o be held at the Pine Grove Sate Furnace Park in Pennsylvania. There they will learn about local wildlife, plants, swimming, and, of course, the Appalachian trails.
GSEP serves over 41,000 girls ages 5 to 17, including dozens in Northwest Philadelphia. They also have chapters in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton in addition to the Philadelphia chapters. They are a volunteer-based nonprofit organization with over 14,000 adult volunteers. Nationally, near 4 million girls and adult volunteers enjoy the Girl Scout experience.
The Allens Lane Art Center has many programs on its campus including the Girl Scouts. They also have the Allens Lane Art Center’s Summer Art Camp for campers ages 5 to 12. The camp for 2012 will run from Monday, June 25 to Friday, Aug. 17.
There will be an Open House for the camp at the facility on Sunday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This will be followed by a Parent Orientation on Sunday, June 3 at 1 p.m. For more information about either the Girl Scouts or the Allens Lane Art Center’s Summer Camp call (215) 248-0559.