STEM up 4 Youth: Sharleen L. Revolutionizes STEM Education in Southern California
For her Gold Award project, Sharleen, 17, from Girl Scouts of Orange County, initiated the first-ever STEM program at a local Boys and Girls Club targeted at after-school programs for underserved children. Her goal was to ignite the kids' natural desires to learn and discover, by designing STEM curricula including fun, hands-on activities.
To do this, Sharleen partnered with over 40 different organizations, including six Boys and Girls Clubs, over 20 county and city libraries/bookmobiles, three Title I elementary schools, California State University, World Vision, the county fair, children's festivals, STEM expos, and a children's learning center.
To date, she has developed over 100 hands-on STEM activities and mobilized over 140 volunteers from 15 different schools to bring weekly STEM programs to underserved children. She has built an organization, STEMup4Youth, that now has more than 40 partners around Southern California, reaching out to over 5,000 children and engaging more than 140 volunteers from 10 local schools. Extraordinary!
This G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ is a STEM rock star. Here’s what she had to say about her Gold Award project, and what Girl Scouting means to her!
Q: What does your Gold Award mean to you? Why did you pick this topic?
A: I’ve always loved STEM, so since I was little, I would always beg my parents to take me to these STEM events. These would be like STEM festivals, and it would be very similar to the STEM events that I hold now. So I had all these fun experiences with STEM when I was younger, and it really got me interested in the field, but when I went to my Title I middle school and elementary school, I noticed that a lot of my peers didn’t really enjoy STEM as much as I did. They were like, “Why do you like science? That’s such a boring subject.” I wanted to make them feel the same way that I do, or at least show them what I have seen. So I decided to bring my experiences from when I was a child to children who don’t necessarily have the same exposure.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced in completing your Gold Award project?
A: Well, at first we didn’t have very many kids, so we had to make our activities super fun and interesting for the kids, and try to attract them to come, because they could come and go freely. So that was one challenge. Then, later on, another challenge was to actually get volunteers to come and help us with this, because the programs were getting so large, and we didn’t have enough volunteers to attend to all the kids effectively. We had to spend a lot of time creating flyers, marketing, and talking to other people.
Q: Where are you now, and what are your plans for the future?
A: [This year] I’ll be a senior in high school, and I go to a STEM magnet school actually. We have this program called Troy Tech and we do courses like computer science, business, and robotics. It’s really cool. I’m on the computer science pathway, and as you can sort of tell I’m really into STEM, so I’ve been doing a lot of science. Science is my favorite subject, and my favorite science would probably be chemistry.
Outside of school, I participate in Science Olympiad. I’ve done the Chemistry Olympiad, which I’ve gone to and done the national test and placed in the top 50, which is pretty cool. And my school’s Science Olympiad team is actually the national champion. We won Science Olympiad last year.
Besides that, I also do music. My orchestra is affiliated with World Vision, and I think that’s really meaningful. We go and we fundraise, and we put the money out for World Vision to use for those who are affected by natural disasters.
I think Girl Scouts has really played a role in making me aware of these situations, and making me feel the need to go out and help people. I really want to help people in the future, which is what I do with STEM, and what I do with my orchestra, WRCM.
Q: What does Girl Scouts mean to you?
A: Girl Scouts is really what has taught me to speak up, how to get my voice out there, how to take action, how to start a project and keep it going, and expand it. Girl Scouts has basically been my second family. I’ve met so many amazing people through Girl Scouts. Everybody is so friendly. My Girl Scout troop is super, duper close, and the friendships fostered, everything, it’s all played a huge role in this [my success].
I think it’s really important for girls to have this organization that can bring them together and empower them. All these girls, collectively, are doing so many amazing things, and actually, I can tell you from personal experience, that seeing other girls do something can make you feel like you can do it, too.
Q: Which part of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ do you most identify with?
A: When we talk about go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader, I feel like Girl Scouts has really taught me to be a little bit of each one, or maybe a lot of each one! As a go-getter, we have to take action. We don’t just stand in the shadows. We go and get what we want. With innovator, there are so many issues that everyone’s taking a stand for. You have to take an innovative lead, an innovative approach, and come up with your own ideas, something new that can impact the world. With a risk-taker, you’re definitely going to go through failure, but after every failure, you know you’ll pick yourself up. And a leader . . . as a Girl Scout, I know that I’ve been able to learn how to be a leader and to lead my organization, STEMup4Youth, and become a leader in everyday life, too.