In June, Senior Program Manager Jennifer Wotring, was invited to attend the inaugural Million Girls Moonshot (MGM) Girls Build Solutions Showcase and Capacity Building Event by our partners at the West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network. Along with 250 other state network leads, partner organization representatives, and funders celebrated the success of the first ever Flight Crew, heard from funders and partners about their support of STEM education, and learned from experts in the field how to continue to support STEM learning for all. The following is her reflection on the impactful event.
The Flight Crew. The Million Girls Moonshot Inaugural Flight Crew is a group of 16 youth from across the United States who have had “impactful STEM experiences beyond the classroom” and as peer leaders are working to “spark their peers’ curiosity in STEM”. I was in awe of their accomplishments, their ability to articulate lived experiences to an audience of over 200, but even more importantly, their recognition that it’s about more than their accomplishments. Each one of these youth, from middle school to college, were focused on supporting others in their STEM learning. The passion and enthusiasm they conveyed when sharing their experiences was inspiring.
Throughout the event, we heard from funders and partners about their support of STEM education, many of whom also shared their “why”. Dr. Swati Mohan from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Matthew Swibel, from Lockheed Martin, Leanne Caret from The Boeing Company, Debbie Sterling, the Founder/CEO of Goldie Blox and many more shared not only their organization’s vision for supporting the MGM but also their personal stories of their connections to STEM. There were many times while listening to these speakers, especially as they were engaging the Flight Crew in discussion, I asked myself, “Can I do more?”
The celebratory events came to an end, and the capacity building workshops began. With a focus on out of school time learning, sessions were led by experts FULL of information, strategies, resources, and discussions on how we can DO MORE, specifically in after school programs which I believe have a unique advantage when engaging students and families. Many quotes resonated with me as the learning continued. Quotes like, “If you see it, you can be it.”, “Collaborate, don’t compete…whenever possible.”, and finally my favorite, from STEM Next’s Teresa Drew, “What’s good for girls is good for all youth.” Beyond the quotes, there was a common theme that kept coming to mind throughout the 4-day event. Every member of the Flight Crew spoke of their families who “encouraged” and “supported” their interest in STEM. Encouragement and support to pursue STEM learning, to attend STEM events, to consider STEM careers.
It was then I realized all the strategies and resources in the world cannot overcome the challenge children face when they lack the encouragement and support to pursue their educational interests. I can do more! I can use my newly acquired knowledge about STEM learning, my existing (and fueled) passion for work with afterschool, and every evolving work with the West Virginia Family Engagement Center MORE!
I will help demystify STEM to increase family engagement and provide West Virginia families with a familiarity and level of comfort around STEM learning. This familiarity and reassurance are what is needed to support and encourage children to pursue STEM learning, as we look at doing more for students and families across our state. My key takeaways from the event: