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Summer program provides opportunities to empower girls through STEM

This summer, teeenage girls will hear directly from southeastern Connecticut women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math – and realize that could be them.

Professionals, such as electrical engineers and scientists, will share with girls 16 to 19 their career paths and what their day is like, as part of a free summer enrichment program held by S.T.E.P.S., Inc. an organization focused on empowering young women, said Executive Director Beatrice Jennette.

"We might spark someone else's interest to say: 'Wow, I might want to do this,'" Jennette said.

S.T.E.P.S. Inc. received a $150,000 Summer Enrichment Innovation Grant from the state Department of Education to hold the Summer Leadership College/Career Enrichment Program July 12-Aug. 6.

“S.T.E.P.S. will be joined by The New London County Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and Soroptimist International CT Shoreline to serve a diverse group of 150 young women ages 16-19 in southeastern Connecticut,” a news release states. “This grant has allowed them to offer the 4-week summer program at no cost to participants, including transportation and meals.”

The program will include workshops on STEM taught by women from local companies, such as Pfizer, Electric Boat and Dominion, Jennette said. The participants also will engage in workshops on yoga and meditation, exercise, self-care, art, music and dance for their social and emotional health. There also will be field trips and college tours.

The program is the latest offering from S.T.E.P.S., Inc., a Groton-based organization which stands for Striving Towards Empowered Personal Success. The organization began in 2008 when a group of women saw a need in the community because young girls were struggling, said Jennette. The organization works with girls in sixth through twelfth grade in Groton, New London and Norwich to teach them, build their self-esteem, and give them skills as they transition from grade to grade and from school.

“We’re a support system for them and their families, and we give them skills so that they can prosper and have great success once they get out of high school and they move on with their lives,” Jennette said. “We don’t ever want them to give up on their dreams because we all know it is possible. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work, but it means it’s possible. We don’t like for challenges to get them down.”

While unexpected events may happen in life, the organization teaches girls to keep jumping over any hurdles they may face and to keep moving forward, she said. The girls also learn to give back to their communities through community service and to help others, she added.

Jennette said that students over the last year have been going through a lot of depression, sadness and isolation, so the organization thought the summer enrichment program would be a good way to bring students out to socialize and to expose them to what is available to them not just in the community, but also outside of the community.

Jennette said the organization wants to expose girls to STEM because they often shy away from the field, so this is a way to have equity in the workplace and give them a seat at the table. It is also a good opportunity financially because there will be many STEM jobs available, she said.

Jennette said she hopes the program helps students see all the different careers available to them and realize that they too could do the work that the women speaking to them are doing. She said the program is also so important to the women teaching the younger generation.

The program will be held at a local college each week. There will be mask wearing, social distancing and temperature taking, she added.

People interested in the summer program can contact Gayle Rowe at (860) 941-7949 or programs.steps@gmail.com. The program will be held 1 to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, with "fun adventures" held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Participants have the opportunity to sign up for the full four weeks, or sign up for a week at a time.

S.T.E.P.S., which holds a smaller summer program each year, will continue to also hold that program this summer for the first two weeks of August. That program is open for girls in sixth through 12th grade and the program also will focus on STEM activities.

k.drelich@theday.com

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