With 25 eager and ambitious participants, the Pacific Coast Regional leadership team was set for the S.T.E.A.M. Into Action program. When formulating a design for the eight-week course, we hoped to equip young activists with STEM and arts (S.T.E.A.M.)-related entrepreneurship skills that could be used to address community-based gender inequalities. Additionally, we hoped to provide participants with a welcoming environment in which they could create new connections, share ideas with one another, and feel empowered with their unique skill sets.
Throughout the program, we aligned with a framework for design thinking. The concept centralizes empathy, identifying community needs, defining a problem, and strategically ideating a solution. Leaders on our team curated presentations and curricula for participants to guide them through the process and educate them on various topics including women in STEM, networking, inclusivity and intersectionality, safety for women, and activism. During one of our weekly meetings, we were thrilled to be joined by a panelist of young entrepreneurs: Maria, Zaina, and Isha, all of whom are #girlheroes in their own light. Each of the three were able to share stories of their individual success and how they were able to persevere through tough circumstances to reach where they currently are.
Because our program began in June of 2020, the global pandemic and the realities of widespread social injustices informed our intention behind our weekly meetings. In the spirit of valuing mental health, each meeting was started with a guided meditation. To break up the rigor of learning material every week, we set aside time to create vision boards, non-judgmental group conversations, and dance parties. Once the participants were past the inevitable discomfort of being in a virtual space, connectivity and support were fruitful.
For the final goal, each girl was given the opportunity to present their pitch to the Pacific Coast Regional Team and a panel of judges from Girl Up staff. The participants presented ideas related to female reproductive health and wellness packages, community-based arts therapy. In order to allow each of our participants to carry out the projects defined in their pitch, each of them received a $500 grant from Girl Up to use toward the expenses of their project.
Given the success of S.T.E.A.M. Into Action, we look forward to hosting the program again next year. Although not surprised, the Girl Up Pacific Coast team was exhilarated by the impressive progress made by the participants of the program. It was apparent through the presentations that each individual had grown in confidence and knowledge of entrepreneurship. Girl Up Pacific Coast Campus Regional Leader Blen stated, “Each of the students in the program brought a unique and important perspective to the table, ones which we all know can all too often be ignored. This program strived to help students know that their voices are powerful and worthy of being heard.” It is without a doubt that each of the participants will create a lasting impact with their newfound knowledge.