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VTC Camp Mentors Teenage Girls Interested In STEM Career Fields

Rebecca Sananes
Girls in 9th and 10th grade build LED light kits with mentors at Rosie's Girls camp at Vermont Technical College. The camp introduces girls to STEM, where women are traditionally underrepresented.

For the second year, Vermont Technical College is hosting a camp for teenage girls to be introduced to and mentored in science and technology.

The camp, called Rosie's Girls, takes on 32 girls in the 9th and 10th grade and pairs them with women working in the engineering, sciences, math and other career paths where women are traditionally underrepresented.

In Vermont, onlyfive in 100 women are electricians.

So when Dr. Page Spiess distributes activity kits to experiment with building LED batteries, she's giving campers at Rosie's Girls more than just a project.

Dr. Speiss is the program leader at Rosie's Girls, and has Ph.D in pulmonary toxicology. She says it is important to create a place for girls to grow in the STEM fields — that's science, technology engineering and mathematics.

“There is a large number of men predominantly in the STEM and trades careers,” she said. “Not a lot of young women might feel comfortable entering these career options if they don't know that women are also pursuing these and are already in these industries.”

Each girl is matched up with a mentor at the camp. The two correspond over course of the academic year via email and in person. Speiss explained how the mentorship works:

“We discuss things from: How do you plan ahead? What are your goals? How do we goal set? And then, what careers would you be interested in? What might you be interested in for majoring? And then, possibly, would you like to think about an internship somewhere that might help you further decide if this career is right for you?"

Nicole Wright, a 9th grader at Mount Mansfield Union High School, says the camp is more than just science.

“We talk about how women can make a difference in science and how there have been more and more jobs for women in science fields, and that's great," she says.

Desiree Fisher, a 10th grader from Burlington, says being with a group of STEM-oriented women has shown her that despite stereotypes, women can also move in that direction.

“Engineering, science is more ‘guy,’ basically,” she explained of her classroom experiences, “but being here shows us we can do anything guys can do.”

Rosie's Girls will have a second session starting in mid-July. 

Rebecca Sananes was VPR's Upper Valley Reporter. Before joining the VPR Newsroom, she was the Graduate Fellow at WBUR and a researcher on a Frontline documentary.
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